National Farmers' Federation

PALM work hours change a step in the right direction

The National Farmers’ Federation’s Horticulture Council has today welcomed improvements to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme that will go a long way to ensuring it remains an accessible and viable workforce option for Australian farmers.

The change means from 1 July 2024, employers of short-term workers will be required to offer 120 hours of work over 4 weeks, rather than 30 hours each and every week as had been planned.

Jolyon Burnett, Chair of the NFF Horticulture Council, said industry was encouraged the Albanese Government had heeded advice that the original settings would result in fewer employers engaging with PALM and fewer workers from the Pacific able to benefit from the opportunity of earning great wages in Australia.

“Business confidence in horticulture is at a low ebb right now, and a lot of that has got to do with a lack of certainty in our workforce options,” Mr Burnett said.

“The announced improvements will be a real shot in the arm for employers in the sector, and especially for those who have made significant accommodation and other capital investments to meet scheme requirements.

“We congratulate the government on this improvement to the PALM scheme and ask that we now take a long-term view of building a workforce for the horticulture industry that is secure, reliable and productive, with a more balanced mix of labour sources.

“We believe the PALM scheme has an important, if not central part to play in that mix, but caution against leaving ourselves overdependent on it.

“Regardless of the improvements announced today, there will still be situations where engaging PALM workers, given the relative inflexibility of the scheme and its attendant costs and requirements, will not be commercially viable.

“We’ll continue to work with government on getting the mix right.”