“During the course of the Committee’s public hearings, it quickly emerged that a major shortage in agricultural labour is emerging,” Committee Chair Julian Leeser MP said.
“Time after time, the submissions and witnesses to this inquiry told the Committee about the effect that a lack of working holiday makers entering Australia would have on the upcoming harvest season.
“The Committee took the decision to publish an interim report, making recommendations that aim to assist the Parliament and the Government in responding to the urgency of the labour shortages.”
The Committee’s key recommendations focus on using Australians and temporary visa holders currently residing in Australia to fill the shortfall for the current season.
“In addition we also consider that the Federal Government with the State and Territory governments and industry organisations should work together to recruit additional people under the Seasonal Workers Program and Pacific Labour Scheme to fill urgent shortfalls in agriculture,” Mr Leeser said.
The Committee will continue the Working Holiday Maker inquiry, and report on the wider terms of reference later in 2020.
The interim report can be found at this link.
The Alliance noted that COVID-19 has left a significant number of Australians unemployed; however, despite high unemployment rates there has not been an increase in the number of Australians seeking employment in fresh produce, despite the availability of roles.
“A key difficulty in recruiting Australians in fresh produce is the regional location of the employment,” the group's submission said.
“In order to address this issue, a relocation payment should be offered to incentivise Australians to move from metropolitan areas to regional locations where there is harvest work.
“Further, an induction support payment should be offered to the business employing this worker to minimise the financial burden of additional induction, training and support costs.
“It is recommended that payment be made to both the business and the employee after 12 weeks work has been completed.
“The fresh produce industry has seen success in attracting working holiday makers to undertake harvest work in regional areas for 12 weeks with the current 417 and 462 visa schemes incentivising this work through 12-month visa extensions.”