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SWP, Grants, border restrictions and safe plans – COVID-19 updates

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Seasonal Worker Programme back on

The Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) will resume following an agreement reached by the intergovernmental National Cabinet and announced on Friday.

“The arrival of new workers under these programs had to be paused in March because of necessary COVID-19 travel restrictions, which are protecting the health of Australians, Pacific Islanders and Timorese,” the statement said.

“These new arrangements will help ensure that states and territories can address labour market shortages affecting Australian farmers and other regional businesses.”

Labour market testing requirements will continue to apply.

State associations and other representative bodies are also taking action to reduce the impact of anticipated workforce shortages.

COVID-19 project grants available to Victorians

Businesses in Victoria are eligible for agricultural business grants of $10,000–$300,000 for projects that are the result of COVID-19.

Covering costs up to 50 per cent, project examples include:

  • Purchase of new machinery on production lines to allow for physical distancing
  • Extra kitchens/break rooms, bathrooms, washrooms or modifications to existing facilities
  • Extra accommodation or modification to existing onsite accommodation for workers due to COVID-19
  • Additional Vehicles/Transport for workers to and from your property
  • A daily travel-to-work allowance of up to $50 per employee and daily accommodation support of up to $200 per employee is available to businesses unable to fill eligible roles locally.

If you can demonstrate project work is required  as a result of COVID-19, and think you may be eligible, register here to get your own case worker who can discuss your needs and eligibility with you.

COVID Safe Plans recommended

Although not required, COVID Safe Plans are now available for businesses across the whole of the country.

All Victorian businesses in stage 4 are required to prepare a COVID Safe Plan, and plans are recommended for the rest of the state.

Border updates

Changes are occurring regularly to border restrictions, and growers and businesses who rely on interstate travel are advised to keep abreast of updates.

A travel code is currently being developed in order to provide exemptions to agriculture producers needing to travel interstate for essential work purposes.

National Farmers Federation President Tony Maher told Sky News it was  a step in the right direction.

“We have been talking to the government for some time about the critical nature of agriculture and obviously we want food and fibre producers to be able to continue to do their job,” Tony said.

“The agricultural ministers are driving it, we need the health ministers to actually get on board and do their job and make sure that they know agriculture is an essential service.

“It’s a national approach to allow agriculture and all of the associated roles to actually function so that means all of the freight, all of the workers that have a link to an essential service like agriculture.”

You can always find the latest updates on border changes at interstatequarantine.org.au.

Click here for the National Farmer’s Federation (NFF) COVID-19 guide.

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