POST 115: THERE ARE MAJOR CONCERNS WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S NEW AGRICULTURE WORKER VISA

Summary

The Agriculture visas are uncapped.  Therefore, the Federal government are predicting East Timorese farm workers in Australia, could double to nearly 25,000 by March 2022.

In addition, there are large numbers of foreign visa holders expected to arrive from low wage SouthEast Asian countries and Pacific nations.

This could have a significant impact on Australia’s workforce because there is a push to make the Agri visas a new pathway to permanent residency.

The visa will be available to workers across the agriculture (including meat processing), fisheries and forestry sectors.

Are Agri industries telling the whole truth about labour shortages?

There are indications that the Federal Liberals are appeasing their National Party partners and Agriculture industries? Evidence is emerging that the extent of farm labour shortages may be overstated.

These concerns are founded on data released by the The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (ABARES).

If there was overwhelming proof of labour shortages, why have horticulture vegetable growers thrived during the coronavirus pandemic?

ABARES data revealed that Since May 2020-May 2021, mushroom and vegetables growers have undergone significant growth in employment adding another 4,500 workers and an increase of 27.4%.

Moreover, fruit and tree nut growing has also undergone growth, adding another 2,700 workers, an increase of 7.2%. A bumper season across Australia’s key avocado growing regions has producers worried prices could drop to record low levels.

Far from given out signals of worker shortages states such as Western Australia are having a bumper season with avocadoes and strawberries very cheap to buy. That is called oversupply and has nothing to do with labour shortages.

Is the Agri industries concern more about having to pay wide scale Australian award rates and minimum Federal wages to Australian workers? Is the push to bring in foreign workers driven by the fact they are more willing to work piecework rates than Australian citizens?

One thing is certain the rhetoric about Aussies not willing to work on farms is nonsense.

Employment of Australian seasonal workers on horticulture rose to 56,000 workers in February 2019.

Another major issue with the call for uncapped Agri visas to be allowed into the country, is that Covid 19 is still spreading fastly in the Eastern States and in countries overseas.

The Federal visa policy could push the West Australian government into a corner to make further restrictions on interstate arrivals for farm workers.

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