David Littleproud, the Federal Minister for Agriculture, has announced that introducing a special farm workers Visa in time for the current picking season is his top priority. He has been having meetings with David Coleman, Minister of Immigration, about the possibility of the new Visa. The farm workers visa would focus on specifically hiring farm workers to help in the busy picking period that lasts from May to August every year.
Littleproud has been a staunch supporter of the new Visa and has said that agriculture has a huge labor shortage, particularly for picking. He believes that an agriculture Visa could help address this problem, as per The Australian.
Littleproud also believes that Australia needs a specific farm Visa so that overseas farmers who wish to work in Australian farms do not need to wade through various categories of Visas. The current Visa proposal is to introduce a multiple-entry Visa of short duration without the need for any Labor Market Testing. The applicants to this Visa would also not need any kind of sponsorship and would be able to switch employers within the agriculture sector.
Fiona Simson, President of the National Farmers Federation, feels that if the new Visa is not introduced soon, then the farm owners would struggle to get workers for the picking season. She says that the Agriculture sector already relied heavily on migrant labor. An Agricultural Visa would specifically cater to the skill shortages in the field of agriculture, specifically fruit pickers and packers.
Most agricultural jobs are seasonal and short-term. Hence they are not very attractive to locals who have ongoing financial priorities and long-term career goals.
David Thomson, the CEO of Growcom, also extended support to the introduction of the Agricultural Visa.
The Govt. of Australia is yet to announce details of the Farm Workers Visa but it is aiming at a pilot program later this year. The freedom to switch between employers in the agriculture sector would be the key to the success of this Visa. The Govt. believes that employers who demonstrate credible workplace practices only should have access to foreign workers. The Fair Farms Certification Scheme could be one way to achieve the same.
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