National Farmers' Federation

Statement on the Prime Minister’s Farm Labour Announcement

Today’s announcement by the Prime Minister asking farmers to report their employment needs is a shallow attempt at solving a deep problem.
Of course we want Australians to fill jobs on Aussie farms. Farmers have been trying to do that for years. But the reality is this latest attempt is unlikely to bear fruit (or get much picked for that matter).
What is needed is a dedicated Agricultural Visa.
Industry has been calling for a dedicated Agricultural Visa for over 12 months now. We have been talking to the Government – putting forward a strong case and clearly demonstrating the need for measures that will genuinely address the problem. Evidently they have not been listening.
Agriculture’s labour woes will once again come into sharp focus in coming months, as summer fruits like cherries, grapes and mangoes need harvesting. An Agricultural Visa would cater specifically for these acute skill shortages, including fruit pickers and packers.
The industry remains committed to developing a domestic labour force but history has shown this is simply not the answer. Research and experience demonstrates that we need migrant workers to meet the sector’s needs.
Many agricultural tasks are short-term or seasonal. Often these arrangements aren’t attractive to local workers, who have ongoing financial commitments and longer term career aspirations.
That’s why the Government’s announcement today is so disappointing. Their plan to encourage workers onto farms using a carrot and stick approach might be well intentioned, but shows a lack of understanding of the issue.
We need a real solution, and we need it yesterday.
If the government will not deliver an Agricultural Visa in the short term, we need dedicated changes to the existing schemes that will make a difference to farmers this season. The Government’s announcement to ‘examine options if needed’ simply treats farmers with contempt.
The evidence is already overwhelming: changes are needed.
We cannot wait months for some sort of bureaucratic job register to get up and running and inevitably fail. The crop will be rotting on the ground and farmers will be paying the price for government paralysis.
Our industry has a plan to reach $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030. Resolving our crippling labour shortage is central to this plan, but unfortunately Government doesn’t seem to be listening.

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