National Farmers' Federation

457 visa law makes it harder for farmers to find workers

The passing of the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill through Parliament has today been met with disappointment by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF).
The Bill, passed by the Senate this afternoon, will place stronger regulations on employers seeking to sponsor skilled migrant workers on 457 visas.
NFF CEO Matt Linnegar says this disadvantages Australian farmers who have a genuine need to seek overseas workers due to the lack of local availability.
“Overseas workers play a small but important role in the Australian agricultural sector, helping our farmers fill labour shortages at peak times when local labour is difficult to access,” Mr Linnegar said.
“The labour shortage in agriculture is nothing new: we’ve been saying for many years that we simply do not have enough workers in our sector. Employment in our sector has declined by 27 percent over the past ten years, the largest decrease seen by any industry. Yet the value of our agricultural exports continues to grow, proving there is no lack of work to be done on our farms.
“In some of the worst instances, farmers have even been forced to let their fruit crops rot on trees, as they simply cannot find people willing to pick their fruit.
“We, of course, fully support all programs that help to build the Australian agricultural labour market and are ourselves working with the wider farm sector on the creation of a Workforce Development Plan to ensure our long-term labour shortages can be overcome.
“But in the short term, migration programs, like the 457 visa program, are designed to help farmers fill labour shortage gaps, and any restrictions on these programs will only make this harder for farmers,” Mr Linnegar said.
Mr Linnegar’s comments come following the NFF’s request to the Government to review the Australia & NZ Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) code system, to ensure that it accurately represents the needs of the agricultural labour market. This call comes in response to the removal of ‘shearers’ from the skills shortage list by the Government last year.
“The decision to remove shearers is baffling, as it contradicts what we know – that there is a shortage of shearers in the sector. In fact, the AgriFood Skills Environmental Scan, released just this week, lists shearers as a regional and seasonal skills shortage.
“What this says to farmers is that the Government is not aware of the reality of the skills shortages facing agriculture. The changes to requirements around 457 visas, the lack of information underpinning the ANZSCO codes and the passing of the Fair Work Amendment Bill last night – making it less flexible for employers – are all impeding the ability of farmers to get on with their jobs,” Mr Linnegar said.

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