Federal Member for Mallee, Anne Webster, says the securing of the Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom and the announcement of a Seasonal Agriculture Worker Visa is great news for Mallee.
“I have been calling for a seasonal agriculture visa for some time now. This visa will allow producers to get the right workers in the right place at the right time.
“The Seasonal Agriculture Worker Visa will allow workers from ASEAN countries, including Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos to come to Australia for seasonal work for 9 months a year, 3 years in a row, for skilled and unskilled positions. Many growers have expressed their preference for workers from ASEAN countries, whom they find are ideally suited for the horticulture industry in Mallee.
“Our local industries have been reliant on the Working Holiday Maker program for a long time, and while this program has worked for some, it is not a sustainable solution for industry that is exponentially growing.”
“A condition of the Free Trade Agreement is that backpackers from the UK will be exempt from completing agricultural work as part of the Working Holiday Maker program. These workers will be phased out incrementally to 2027. The Nationals recognised this would result in a further and massive supply gap of harvest workers if a solution was not developed. That’s why Minister Littleproud fought tooth and nail to have the new visa implemented.
“The creation of an Agriculture Visa was also a recommendation of the report into the Growing Agriculture to $100 Billion by 2030 Inquiry by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources. As a member of this Committee I pushed hard for the inclusion of this recommendation. Drawing from the close consultation I’ve had with Industry, I understood that this visa would help local producers in Mallee.
I’m thankful for the engagement of local growers and peak bodies, including the Australia Table Grapes Association, Citrus Australian, and the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance for their input. Ultimately, their feedback is what led me to push so hard for this visa to be implemented.
“This visa is widely supported by the National Party as a whole. At the 2021 Federal Conference, I moved a motion which recommended the creation of an agricultural visa, which was carried unopposed by the conference.
“The Commonwealth Government will have the new visa in place in the third quarter of 2021.
“This is a great result for Mallee farmers. We now need the Victorian state government to implement quarantine facilities, similar to the South Australian Government site at Paringa. The Paringa facility allows seasonal workers to enter South Australia to quarantine to then bring in the harvest.
“We need to ensure we have a quarantine system in place to handle quarantine for seasonal workers, so that growers can make the best use of the system.”