National Farmers' Federation

Backpackers one piece of the ag workforce puzzle

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has called for policy to deliver a strong and reliable workforce to agriculture as the sector sits poised to provide thousands of jobs and major growth to the national economy. Highlighting Australia’s agricultural workforce needs as part of its ‘Accelerate Agriculture’ Federal Election 2016 campaign, the NFF has identified a number of key policy reform opportunities to boost the industry’s competitiveness. NFF President, Brent Finlay, said while the controversial ‘backpacker tax’ had been a headline issue, and one the organisation had advocated fiercely against for months, it was only one of a number of important measures requiring commitment from policy makers. These measures include adopting recent recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s Review of the Workplace Relations Framework, including putting to an end the four-yearly modern award review, a revised modern awards objective that accommodates individual sector needs, new incentives to encourage enterprise bargaining in agriculture and changes to protected industrial action rules. Other key measures required to strengthen the agricultural workforce include: Ensuring no new penalty rates are introduced into agricultural sector awards; Introducing a new dedicated visa stream for regional agricultural work; and Promoting awareness of the Seasonal Worker Program and establishing a ‘Seasonal Worker Program Administration Fund’ to help encourage greater uptake. “Each of these are common sense measures that can be easily implemented to truly help stimulate jobs and growth across what is Australia’s second largest export sector and a key contributor to the national economy,” Mr Finlay said. “Agriculture is already contributing significantly to the nation but has enormous potential to substantially increase this input and be our next $100 billion industry – we cannot emphasise this enough. “We call on our political candidates to commit to playing their role in allowing the industry to thrive by supporting policy that will lead to exceptional results. “Our position on the backpacker tax remains unchanged and that is it should be scrapped for the sake of the livelihoods of thousands of primary producers across the country. “We will continue to express our dissatisfaction at the government’s decision to merely delay the tax by six months rather than implement a solution for the farmers who rely on working holiday makers to fill highly important, short-term positions in their businesses. “But we are also more broadly looking to the next government to put in place sensible and sustainable workforce policies that support industry consolidation and growth over the next decade.” For further detail on what agriculture needs to build a stronger workforce and to see the NFF’s full list of 2016 election asks go to www.accelerateag.com

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