The National Farmers’ Federation says the Migration Strategy released today has some wins for farmers, but overall won’t solve the industry’s workforce woes.
NFF President David Jochinke said the strategy lacked the detail needed and farmers still didn’t have the dedicated agricultural visa they desperately need.
“There are some wins in the strategy, such as prioritising regional visa processing, streamlining applications and processing, and greater stakeholder engagement to get workers where they’re needed.”
However, Mr Jochinke said the worker mobility component had the farm sector concerned.
“Bringing in a migrant worker is a major investment for a small business.
“Just as the system has to avoid situations where businesses can take advantage of workers, we don’t want workers taking advantage of an employer, using this as a ticket into Australia, then leaving a farmer in the lurch in the middle of harvest and out of pocket thousands of dollars.”
The NFF is also concerned the changes will mean more paperwork by increasing the regulatory burden on small farming businesses and unions becoming gatekeepers under the changes.
The strategy also indicates a discussion paper will be released early next year into regional migration settings and the Working Holiday Maker program.
“We will engage in this process but this can’t mean a further phase out of the regional work requirement for backpackers,” Mr Jochinke said.
“We’ve already seen this requirement removed for British backpackers from 1 July 2024, while the Government increased visa charges for Working Holiday Makers by 25% this year.
“Bit by bit our options are being eroded. Backpackers are an important workforce for agriculture and by closing this door without any alternatives, farmers will struggle to access the workers they need.
“With workforce challenges one of the biggest issues keeping farmers up at night, we need to make sure access to workers is streamlined and tailored to the unique settings in agriculture while ensuring farms are safe and enjoyable places to work.”