Federal Member for Mallee Anne Webster has welcomed news that farmers will be able to hire workers from Vietnam.
A Senate Estimates hearing this week confirmed Labor will honour the Agriculture Visa agreement with Vietnam, following a Memorandum of Understanding established before the Federal Election.
The Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee heard the visa would be given another name, but importantly was being honoured.
“I fought hard in Canberra for what was previously known as the Ag Visa to be introduced, and when in government the Nationals were able to deliver it,” Dr Webster said.
“We welcome migrant workers from Vietnam and are pleased the Labor Government will honour the Australian Ag Visa agreement.”
Robinvale, Tol Tol and Wemen grower Tony Natale, who farms table grapes, avocados and citrus, said the news was “fantastic” for the agriculture industry.
He said it would help solve an ongoing issue for the industry that was compounded during the pandemic years.
“All I can say is that it brings a sigh of relief,” he said.
“We can produce the best product in the world, but not being able to get employees to harvest it was going to be devastating.
“This is great news.”
The Ag Visa was designed to supplement the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme for workers from southeast Asia.
Since June, the PALM Scheme has brought in just 10,800 workers.
Dr Webster said the Estimates hearing proved Labor needed to reinstate the Ag Visa to help ease the cost-of-living crisis, rather than rely on the PALM Scheme, which provides visas for workers from just nine Pacific islands and Timor-Leste.
“Australia needs 172,000 workers to get product from the paddock to the plate right now,” Dr Webster said.
“There are still not enough workers available. The PALM Scheme will not be able to bring them in and practical solutions are required to get farmers the workers they need.
“Because, as we know, when the supply of food goes down the cost goes up.”
The Estimates Committee also heard there had been correspondence for a similar visa for India, but the idea was dumped by Labor and instead incorporated into the PALM Scheme.
“Scrapping the Ag Visa was a terrible move by Labor and is costing Australians more at the checkout when they pay for their groceries,” Dr Webster said.
“The cost-of-living crisis requires common sense and that includes allowing our farmers to get the workers they desperately need.”