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APAL welcomes renewed Vic-Tas quarantine pathway – but more is needed

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The Victorian Government has announced a workforce boost of an additional 1,500 Pacific workers via the established quarantine pathway with Tasmania. 

 The Victorian Government will provide $5,300 per worker towards quarantine costs, with $2000 per worker to be covered by the farmer or labour hire firm.  

This effectively extends the prior agreement between Victoria and Tasmania to quarantine workers from Pacific nations in Tasmania before they enter Victoria to work on farms. Discussions continue with Tasmania regarding longer-term arrangements. 

APAL CEO Phil Turnbull said this was welcome news for growers looking ahead to a challenging harvest season. 

 “The continuation of this successful labour pathway and the part subsidy via the Victorian Government will provide some relief for Victorian growers,” Phil said. “However, increasing quarantine capacity will be necessary to fill the projected labour shortfall.” 

Not a ‘silver bullet’ for labour crisis

While the 1,500 extra workers will be a positive for agriculture, this must be considered as part of a coordinated and strategic approach with additional action by government. 

“Over the next 3-4 months, as vaccination rates increase and we approach the harvest, the government should prioritise support for the agriculture industry by putting in place clear strategies and policies for domestic labour movement between and within growing regions, including collaboration between states to meet seasonal labour demands,” Phil said.  

“Domestic quarantine pathways, regional ‘bubbles’ of movement and strategic public health management will be necessary to support our growers and their communities. As we have seen recently in Shepparton, our growing regions are not immune to the risks of COVID, but lockdowns during key seasonal windows would impact growers, and potentially even retailers and consumers across Australia. 

“We know this upcoming harvest season will see fewer working holidaymakers and ongoing national border restrictions. We would also urge the government to move forward with the development of the AgVisa as a longer-term solution to the ongoing labour shortages faced by the industry.” 

The Federal Government had previously announced new timelines for the development and implementation of the new AgVisas. The regulations to enable the creation of the visa will be in place by 30 September, 2021, however it is unlikely this new workforce will fill the gaps of the upcoming harvest season. 

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