National Farmers' Federation

Pacific Islander Solution to Australian Worker Shortage

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) will today argue the case for Pacific Islanders to work during peak seasonal times in Australia to resolve acute labour shortages across the agricultural sector.
NFF Workplace Relations Chairman Duncan Fraser and NFF Manager – Workplace Relations Denita Wawn will appear before the Employment, Workplace Relations and Education Senate Committee, which is hearing evidence for the Inquiry into Pacific Region Contract Seasonal Labour.
The Federal Government Inquiry follows calls by NFF for a feasibility study to be conducted on the need to develop a Seasonal Worker Visa.
“NFF is pursuing the Seasonal Worker Visa as part of its overall Labour Shortage Action Plan,” Mr Fraser said. “This initiative is not about displacing Australian workers, but filling those critical gaps in areas where Australians either cannot, or will not, work.
“Under these circumstances, where regions cannot access adequate domestic labour – especially for peak seasonal demands, then it stands to reason we need to look for alternative sources of labour.”
NFF support for a Seasonal Worker Visa is conditional on strict criteria, including:
* Seasonal workers to go through a comprehensive selection process, including the requirement that they are from rural areas to enable rural skills gained in Australia to assist in long-term agricultural development in their own country.
* The seasonal workers visa is for a short-term period (no more than six months), to minimise any consideration of overstay.
* Seasonal workers complying with all employment and immigration conditions of their first season in Australia are eligible to return for the following season to enable Australian farmers to maximise productivity gains through the availability of a consistent and reliable workforce.
* That all seasonal workers are provided with basic training, including occupational health and safety training and cultural training prior to commencing work in Australia.
* That a seasonal worker visa program is only available to approved labour hire companies or farmers that meets standards set by a centrally coordinated body to oversee the program.
* Adequate co-ordination and assistance is provided to the seasonal worker including team leaders, appropriate accommodation and transport and a dispute resolution process.
* That seasonal workers are only selected for regional areas that cannot access sufficient labour through alternative (domestic) means.
“NFF is buoyed by the findings of the World Bank Report, ‘Expanding job opportunities for Pacific Islanders through Labour Mobility’, released last week,” Mr Fraser added. “This authoritative, independent Report supports the NFF’s proposition in delivering mutual benefits to bolster PacificIsland skills and economic development, while addressing Australia’s debilitating labour shortages.”
NFF will appear before the Committee at 10.45am today in Committee Room 2S1, Parliament House, Canberra. 

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