Labor must commit to Ag Visa with ASEAN countries
27 April 2022
Citrus Australia says Labor must show its commitment to the Australian horticulture industry by declaring its support for the Australian Agriculture Visa in its current format and ensuring it will be accessible to workers from ASEAN countries.
Through a media release headlined ‘Labor’s plan for a stronger Pacific family’, the Federal Opposition says it will establish a dedicated agriculture visa stream under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme and makes no mention of ASEAN countries.
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock says: “Labor must state categorically whether they will exclude the 10 ASEAN countries, and other countries, from accessing the Ag Visa.
“The Ag Visa, which Vietnam has signed up to and which industry has long called for, must meet the needs of farmers across the country who desperately need access to experienced workers.
“We invite Shadow Agriculture Minister Julie Collins to join us on a citrus orchard anywhere in the country to speak with growers about workforce issues and gain an understanding as to why the Ag Visa is important to them.
“The horticulture industry was not consulted on any proposal to roll the Ag Visa into the PALM scheme, there’s been no call to see this happen. Our consistent message has been that we need an Ag Visa to provide more options for this diverse industry where one labour solution does not fit all business situations. We deserve an explanation for the reasoning behind this move.”
Mr Hancock said the horticulture sector requires a range of options to draw staff from.
“The Ag Visa will complement the PALM scheme, which remains vitally important to the citrus industry and has only recently been through an extensive reform process to make it more accessible to Australian citrus growers.
“The PALM scheme will continue to be an important method of recruiting workers and will remain an integral part of Australia’s aid package to Pacific Nations – nations that have been badly hurt by cuts to tourism as a result of the pandemic, and will benefit greatly from this important avenue of employment.
“However, the Ag Visa provides another avenue, particularly to smaller citrus businesses, to recruit skilled, semi-skilled and low skilled workers.
“Relying on one source alone puts industry at risk in the future. Growers can no longer rely solely on Working Holiday Makers to pick the nation’s food – this was evident through the pandemic, we can’t go down the path of exclusively investing in the PALM scheme for our workforce either.
“Over many months through the pandemic our industry has worked in good faith with government departments to bring the Ag Visa together and it would be dispiriting to many to see that effort go to waste, as it would for ASEAN workers to miss out on this employment opportunity too.”
For further information, contact Stephen Cooke, Industry Engagement Manager, Citrus Australia, on 0427 124 437 or email@example.com