The Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia, David Littleproud has welcomed the formal agreement with Vietnam as the first country to participate in the Agricultural Visa won by the Nationals.
Minister Littleproud said the Nationals not only secured better market access with the UK in the free trade agreement last year, but also secured the Ag Visa through negotiations with their Coalition partners.
“The Ag Visa has been an article of faith for the Nationals and despite efforts by the AWU and the Labor Party to sabotage the establishment of the Visa, the Nationals never gave up and pushed our Coalition partners to finalise the visa,” Minister Littleproud said.
“Vietnam’s participation shows the close strategic partnership we share. There are many workers from Vietnam already in Australian agriculture who are highly regarded for their work ethic and attention to detail.”
Member for Mallee, Anne Webster said she was thrilled that Vietnam has signed up.
“This announcement has been long anticipated since the AWU attempted to derail the Ag Visa altogether,” Dr Webster said.
“I have spoken with our growers this afternoon and shared the good news. This is a huge relief for the horticultural industry in Australia and will provide a much needed labour reprieve for farmers. My hope is that the desperate shortage of workers experienced over the past two years will be eased, and that producers will have the confidence to plan for next season.
“ALP must show their stripes: will they support the efforts by the Coalition to secure a long term, sustainable workforce for our growers?
“If the Labor Party neglects the farming industry, it will be catastrophic, not only for regional communities, but for the nation. Our primary producers are looking for assurance that they have the support of both parties.
Minister Littleproud said while he acknowledged some of his Coalition colleagues had struggled to understand the importance of an Ag Visa, the Nationals’ tenacity in finalising the Visa will bring about the biggest structural change to the agricultural workforce in our nation’s history.
“While this is one of the biggest achievements of the Nationals this term, the question still remains as to whether a Labor Government would keep it.
“There is one question that the Labor Party needs to answer and it’s a simple yes or no; will the Labor Party keep the Ag Visa if it wins the election in May?
“If the answer is no, every Australian should understand they will pay more at the checkout for their fruit and vegetables because Anthony Albanese and Labor won’t stand up to their political masters, the AWU.
“The impact Australians are feeling now at the checkout from higher fruit and vegetable prices, because of fuel costs, will pale into insignificance if Labor kills off the Visa as there simply won’t be enough produce in our supermarkets.
“The AWU has been relentless in its opposition to the Ag Visa and if the Labor Party doesn’t give assurance that it will keep it if it is elected, then it will be a clear sign that the union movement will be running this country.”
Minister Littleproud said he hoped other countries would also sign up to the Visa. The Government is working with industry to bring the first cohort of workers into Australia as soon as possible.