The Prime Minister has announced changes to the Working Holiday Maker and Seasonal Workers Programme (SWP) visas growers rely on to address labour challenges in Australia.
Changes to the Working Holiday Maker program will let backpackers qualify for a third year in Australia by performing additional work in regional industries like agriculture, and will raise the age limit for program participation from 30 to 35 years.
The SWP allows workers from Pacific Island nations and Timor Leste to live and work in Australia across multiple work periods, and will be modified to extend each work period to nine months and reduce out-of-pocket expenses for employers.
“This is a good first step,” said APAL’s Head of Advocacy and Government Relations, Jeremy Griffith.
“We’re pleased the government is listening, and we’d like to work towards flexibility for working conditions to make sure the industry has the workers it needs. That said, there is still a long way to go.”
National Farmer’s Federation President Fiona Simson said in a statement that the NFF supported a multifaceted approach to solving the farm sector’s chronic labour woes.
“The farm sector’s labour crisis is not going away. Everyday, farmers, including fruit and vegetable growers, dairy farmers and grain producers, are struggling to find the workforce they need to get the job done,” Ms Simson said.
“Today … meaningful steps have been taken to support farmers in accessing labour and to ensuring workers are not subject to exploitation.”
Voice of Horticulture Chair Tania Chapman said the horticulture industry welcomed every opportunity to fill the huge labour void in the horticulture workforce.
“It is a much better solution than forcing Australians to work in a job that they don’t want,” Ms Chapman said.
“At the end of the day, growers have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their farms, and producing their crops, and they cannot afford to invest in people who are unable to do the work, or who are not interested in doing the work.”
Read the full Voice of Horticulture statement here.