The Australian Farm Worker Visa (Visa Ag) is one more step towards realization, after the federal government amended migration regulations, allowing it to be operationalized with a support program administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Commerce (DFAT).
Agriculture and North Australia Minister David Littleproud said it was a historic moment for the sector and he was keeping the government’s promise to have the visa enacted this year. The regulation provides for a new flow of Australian agricultural workers that will allow the entry and temporary stay of workers in all sectors of primary industries, and allow workers to arrive once negotiations with partner countries are completed – some from here. the end of the year, hopefully.
“The Ag visa will provide a long-term, reliable workforce for our critical industries while solving one of Australia’s biggest regional challenges in recent history,” Mr. Littleproud said. “It will be open to applicants from various countries and we are already in talks with a number of countries in our region who are keen to participate. It will complement the Pacific programs we have put in place which have been essential in supporting our primary industries to date. The Pacific will remain the primary route for the sector to access workers for this crop, with the government pledging to double the number of Pacific workers in Australia by March 2022. “
Photo courtesy of: Nationals Party Ag Visa promotional video.
The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) welcomes the amendment, saying it will reduce the industry’s reliance on backpackers and better complement the continued engagement of Pacific workers and Australians in seasonal harvest roles . It will provide for the entry and temporary stay of workers, allowing the recruitment of cohorts of short-term and long-term seasonal workers.
“From a horticultural perspective, our industry has a large number of short-term and highly seasonal roles that often see workers moving between employers and locations after harvest jobs,” said Michael Rogers, CEO of AFPA. “The parameters of the Ag Visa described today are positive in allowing visa holders to take on seasonal roles in the industry and return to those roles from year to year. It is important to note that the Ag Visa will be essential both to enable the industry to develop a productive and returning workforce and to restructure the industry’s harvest workforce. We know very clearly how Ag Visa works. fits into the horticultural industry employment options – which specifically targets seasonal peak harvest labor. This perfectly complements the continued employment of Australians, Pacific workers and other skilled flyways available. “
Citrus Australia, Australia’s leading citrus organization, also welcomed the news. CEO Nathan Hancock said the support of those in government who made the visa a priority has not gone unnoticed.
“They recognized the significant contribution of the agricultural sector to the national economy and the importance of supporting thousands of farmers,” Hancock said. “The skills shortage is a long term problem for producers and this visa will allow the industry to stop the decline. On their behalf, we thank the government for engaging all departments to work together to issue the agricultural visa. There has been tremendous behind-the-scenes work by members of both Coalition parties, and by government departments, to implement visa regulations by September 30 as promised. This is a first. important step for a long-term and sustainable path to secure skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers for the citrus industry. “
Citrus Australia has already consulted its members on how the visa could be used by their businesses.
“We look forward to contributing to the visa framework to ensure that it benefits both ASEAN producers and workers who wish to pursue careers in the agricultural industry,” Hancock said. “The farm visa will not only give confidence to our citrus growers to continue investing in their export programs, but will allow them to focus on attracting workers back to their farms and packing sheds. which will increase the efficiency of their business. “
National Federation of Farmers
The National Farmers Federation has been campaigning for the visa for more than five years, and Managing Director Tony Mahar said it will expand recruitment opportunities for low and high-skilled workers from ASEAN countries, while the NFF believes that negotiations are well underway to extend the visa for other countries.
“The Ag Visa is a tailor-made instrument designed to specifically address the many and varied skill deficits of agriculture. To be most effective, the visa must be portable and allow workers to move between farms according to demand for labor, ”he said. “We look forward to continuing to work with Minister Littleproud and the government on visa details and how best to meet the needs of farmers and workers.”
The NFF called this a “new dawn for the agricultural workforce”, but also responded to claims by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) that Ag visa holders are at risk of ill-treatment by them. calling it nothing more than an attempt at “cheap and uninformed point scoring”.
“If the CUTA bothered to inquire, they would know that the NFF has always recommended that the visa be open only to farmers who can demonstrate that they take care of their workforce and who have not been able to hire locally, ”Mahar said. noted. “Providing a positive and safe experience for agricultural workers is a core principle of the visa and of paramount importance to the NFF. “
Mahar adds that it is now up to state and territory governments and their public health chiefs to approve quarantine arrangements to safely house incoming foreign workers, including the quarantine review at the farm.
An Australian government fact sheet with information on Ag Visa is available on the DFAT website.