The skills shortage in Mallee 12 months on from the Jobs and Skills Summit remains in crisis, pushing cost-of-living pressures higher.
Member for Mallee Anne Webster said despite The Nationals taking a constructive role to represent regional Australia at Labor’s Jobs and Skills Summit one year ago, workforce shortages in the agriculture sector continue to drive up food prices and Mallee still had a skills crisis.
“The Nationals wanted to work constructively with the government and find practical solutions like reinstating the Agriculture Visa, simplifying the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme, a Regional Skills Visa and allowing pensioners and veterans in Mallee to work more without impacting their payments,” Dr Webster said.
“However, Labor only partially delivered, and that was on pensioners and veterans working more hours. Not only have they ignored The Nationals’ other suggestions, they have also made things worse with changes to the PALM Scheme.
“Labor has hindered agriculture by effectively taking away the tools to grow our nation’s food and fibre. Agriculture has gone backwards because it’s harder for the more than 7000 farmers in Mallee to find the workers they need. As a result, families are struggling to pay for groceries but the increased bills are a Labor-made crisis.”
Australia’s peak food industry bodies have warned that agriculture requires an additional 172,000 workers to get food from paddock to port or plate, yet only around 16,000 extra have come in since Labor got into office.
“The PALM Scheme is unworkable for agriculture because it requires farmers to offer a minimum of 30 hours per weeks, even though agricultural work is seasonal work and weather dependent,” Dr Webster.
“Labor does not understand the agriculture sector, while continuing to ignore the pleas from other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to send workers to Australia under the Agriculture Visa.”
Since the Jobs and Skills Summit, Consumer Price Index figures also show food and non-alcoholic beverages have increased in price by 7.5 per cent, with bread and cereals up by 11.6 per cent and dairy by 15.2 per cent.
“When supply goes down, prices go up, which is why every time Australians go to the checkout, their bill should have Anthony Albanese’s face on it,” Dr Webster said.