This week in Federal politics, the National Party secured a new seasonal agriculture worker visa. This is something I have been fighting for since being elected, and it’s one of the highlights of my term in government so far.
Producers have been calling for it, the Nationals have been calling for it, and now we are delivering it. Producers across Mallee have contacted me since the announcement, and they are over the moon about the new visa.
The visa will allow farmers to employ workers from ASEAN countries nine months a year, three years in a row, for skilled and unskilled positions.
This is a measure that will reduce exploitation in our industry because it creates a legal avenue through which farmers can more easily access the workers they want and need. The visa will also have the right protections in place to ensure that exploitation does not occur under the new program.
The Australian Workers Union (AWU) commented in yesterday’s edition of the Sunraysia Daily that this new visa would lead to more exploitation of workers in Agriculture. They are conflating the issue of regulation with the expanded workforce solution that is being proposed. I would recommend they go back to their drawing board and reconsider.
While the AWU considers they have expertise on human rights and exploitation, they are against any form of status resolution for undocumented workers in the industry, which I have proposed. The AWU have shown by their statements that they are against the agriculture sector finding a sustainable workforce that meets their needs.
I have already been campaigning to several Ministers this week, for the right measures to be included in the new program, such as a mandatory issuing of tax file numbers for workers, and a mandatory use of the single touch payroll system. As well as national reforms for labour hire contractors, rather than the various state-based system currently in place. These measures would allow for significant transparency and oversight of these workers at a federal level, challenging those who are in the business of exploitation.
This visa is intended to be in place by the end of this year, and will mean greater access to a sustainable, legal workforce. It’s a win for Mallee and it’s a win for agriculture.