Federal Member for Mallee, Anne Webster welcomes the commencement of stakeholder consultation into workforce shortages by the Department of Agriculture. The first consultation session will be held today in Mildura.
“I have heard loud and clear from growers in Mallee that we are facing a catastrophic shortfall in workforce this season. I continue to lobby the PM and ministers to find a solution. I continue to tell them that doing nothing is not an option.” Dr Webster said.
“Today’s meeting is a direct result of the pressure I have put on government.” Dr Webster said “the Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, Immigration Minister David Coleman, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and the Prime Minister Scott Morrison have been very receptive to me in this issue, and they have instructed their departments to work with our industry to find a solution.”
“I am encouraged by this unprecedented cross departmental engagement with our Horticultural industry, and I look forward to some progress” she said.
The sessions this week in Swan Hill and Mildura have involves key stakeholders in the Agriculture and Horticulture labour supply market in Mallee, the departments of Agriculture, Home Affairs, Employment, Foreign Affairs, Border Force, Fairwork Commission, the Prime Ministers office as well as local and state government representatives and the office of Dr Webster.
“Growers in and around Swan Hill have told me that upwards of $50 million in produce will fall to the ground and rot if they can’t get the workers they need. That’s a disaster for growers—and it’s a disaster for our local economy as well—meaning less money spent in our communities on farm supplies, machinery, on clothes and on groceries.”
“This meeting is an excellent first step to see Australian Government representatives working with industry to find a way forward. The clear focus of the meeting is to work through ways to ensure an adequate agricultural workforce for the coming season. We want our Horticulture industry to thrive, and in order to do that it needs labour.”
The Federal Department of Agriculture will host a number of consultations across the region with a range of affected parties, including farmers, packers, labour hire contractors and community representatives.