Extension of Victoria’s seasonal worker deal with Tasmania is long overdue, but the 1500 places announced today is a band aid solution that won’t make a dent in the tens of thousands of vacancies across the sector.
The paperwork to extend the deal has been sitting on the Premier’s desk for three weeks, leaving Victorian farmers weeks behind in getting workers into 14 day’s quarantine and on-farm.
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said the Andrews Labor Government’s delays had pushed farmers, who are just weeks away from harvest, to breaking point.
“Workforce shortages are crushing the livelihood of our farmers and Victoria’s $16 billion agriculture industry, but the Andrews Labor Government has delivered little hope today,” Mr Walsh said.
“The pandemic’s left our fruit and vegetable growers, wool producers, grain growers and meat processors tens of thousands of workers short – but Labor Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas is missing-in-action with no plan to get the workforce Victorian agriculture needs.”
The Victorian horticulture sector alone expects to be short about 15,000 workers, but grain growers, wool producers and meat processors have also reported worsening shortages while Australia’s borders remain closed.
The Federal Liberal and National Government recently announced a dedicated ag visa to fast-track the arrival of workers to Australian farms, with State and Territory governments to continue to be responsible for quarantine arrangements.
The Commonwealth’s program will be demand driven and Mr Walsh said the Andrews Labor Government must sign up, as a priority.
“Daniel Andrews and his Agriculture Minister have sat back while farm worker shortages got worse,” Mr Walsh said.
“More than 12 months on and Labor still doesn’t have a long-term solution that will give Victorian farmers certainty for the season ahead.
“The harsh reality is Victorian farmers need far more workers than the Labor Government has finally agreed to provide.
“A long-term plan should include the Victorian Government signing on to the Commonwealth’s ag visa program and making sure that the new quarantine facility at Mickleham has places dedicated to farm workers when it comes online at the end of the year.
“Victorian farmers deserve better than living with the constant worry that their hard work will be for nothing because the Andrews Labor Government can’t be bothered doing its bit.”