AUSVEG Advocacy Activities 25 March 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world hard and Australian horticulture has been no exception so far.
AUSVEG has been fielding several questions and concerns from growers and state members in regard to coronavirus and the impact on their business.
AUSVEG has been working closely with the National Farmers Federation (NFF) Horticulture Council and the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) in coordinating key messages to all levels of government.
Visa extensions have been a key focus for all horticulture industry bodies when talking with Ministers and relevant departments. Extensions to programs such as the Working Holiday Maker program and Seasonal Worker Program for people who are already in Australia and working in horticulture are crucial to ensuring business continuity for our growers.
AUSVEG has advocated for extending those visa programs for at least 12 months for those people who are on those programs and willing and able to continue to work in the industry.
We understand that Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge are in regular dialogue over workable solutions on this issue and we are continuing to advocate the urgency of this decision to help our growers have confidence that they have the workforce to be able to get their produce to market.
AUSVEG has also working with Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s office in regard to developing a pathway for local workers who may have been displaced from other occupations due to COVID-19 and how they may be able to find opportunities in horticulture.
AUSVEG has also done various media over the last few weeks (some links provided below, some subscriptions may be required) about visa extensions and opportunities for a local workforce, but highlighting that horticulture work is labour intensive work and requires physically fit and skilled people in the sector.
Accommodation continues to be a concern in many regions as many options have cut back on occupancy rates or shut their doors completely due to COVID-19. This is an ongoing concern and AUSVEG is continuing to work with government to find workable solutions.
- Call to extend backpacker visas to help farmers cope with virus jolt (March 19)
- Morrison government urged to help temporary visa holders ‘trapped’ in Australia (March 21)
- Call to extend visas to help farmers cope with COVID-19 (March 20)
- Coronavirus travel ban may lead to labour shortages on Australian farms (March 21)
- Holes emerging in farming as migrants flee pandemic (March 23)
Transport and Logistics
AUSVEG, along with the NFF and AFPA, have also been advocating strongly for agriculture to be recognised as an ‘essential service’. This has been done by the Commonwealth Government but still needs to be done a number of state governments.
It is understood that agricultural transport and logistics movements between state borders has been agreed to by state transport ministers and AUSVEG along with a number of agricultural bodies are working with relevant stakeholders to ensure that is publicly declared by each state in the coming days.
Key farm inputs
AUSVEG has been engaging with various stakeholders around chemical and fertiliser quantities. The feedback so far has been that there is no immediate concern on chemical and fertiliser access.
This will continue to be monitored over coming months.
Various meetings and other engagements
The NFF Horticulture Council met last week via teleconference discussing various issues including the impact from COVID-19 on the industry. The council was united in its stance for visa extensions and agriculture to be recognised as an essential service. Various other industry issues were discussed.
AUSVEG has been working to identify the worker shortage that would result from the prohibition of foreign workers coming into Australia and mapping out where a local workforce would be needed to inform policy formation.
AUSVEG has also been engaged with the Fair Work Ombudsman and the wider industry around the Horticulture Award during this emergency time to allow workers to work longer on farms – to the benefit of both workers and growers.
There has been now been two lots of Stimulus Packages from the Federal Government, as well as various state and territory assistance and business assistance.
Growers are encouraged to head to the Farmhub website for all the latest and up to date information for their business relating to COVID-19.
See here for more information.
Coronavirus workplace support
AUSVEG has been engaged with HR Global Solutions in Melbourne who have offered some free advice to AUSVEG members relating to the Coronavirus and Australian Workplace Laws, as well as Candidate Pre-Screening and Pandemic Recruitment Contingency Plan.
Other helpful links
Other AUSVEG advocacy activities
- National Workforce Strategy consultation
- Inquiry into activating trade and investment between Australia and Pacific Island countries
- Inquiry into the impact of temporary migration on the Australian economy, wages, jobs, social cohesion and workplace rights.
Complete the AUSVEG Grower Survey now!
AUSVEG has launched its 2020 AUSVEG Grower Survey and is calling for your feedback to help guide its agenda for this year.
This is your chance to have your say on significant issues such as your Research and Development levy and help set the priorities for AUSVEG’s advocacy agenda.
Click here to complete the AUSVEG Grower Survey
For more information, contact AUSVEG National Manager – Public Affairs Tyson Cattle at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 03 9882 0277.