AUSVEG Advocacy Update – 11 December 2020
AUSVEG was this week in Canberra advocating to Federal Government for solutions regarding the Harvest Labour Shortage, which is at a critical stage.
AUSVEG and the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), via the NFF Horticulture Council, were advocating two main points:
- The expansion of the Trans-Tasman bubble to include COVID-free Pacific Island Nations
This would still need each state government to opt in to the bubble, but would allow a pathway for growers and states to be able to bring in workers outside of the quarantine and outside of the International Returners Cap which has proven to be very problematic for many states.
This would still require sign off from premiers and state chief health officers; however, given the critical nature of the harvest labour shortage, it is the only genuine option industry sees to bringing in harvest labour at the scale required.
- Improving the criteria of the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job (RATTUAJ)
These changes include looking at providing up-front payments, greater assistance for those from non-English speaking backgrounds and offering digital applications along with a range of others.
Industry is urging Option 1 as the only genuine option for growers to be able to bring in any workers at scale to deal with a problem which is continuing to escalate.
AUSVEG and the NFF Horticulture Council met with the following Members and Ministers urging these changes:
- Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment
- Alan Tudge, Acting Minister for Immigration
- Damian Drum, Member for Shepparton
- Anne Webster, Member for Mallee
- Nola Marino, Member for Forrest
- Raff Ciccone, Victorian Senator
- Susan McDonald, Queensland Senator
- Andrew Gee, Member for Calare
- Scott Buchholz, Member for Wright
- Darren Chester, Member for Gippsland
- Ed Husic’s office, Shadow Agriculture Minister
- Alex Hawke, Minister for International Development and Pacific Nations
The NFF also supported industry by raising them with the Prime Minister directly earlier in the week.
The above members were all largely in agreement on the bubble or the ‘green-lane’ (which is essentially a one-way bubble – meaning workers don’t have to quarantine when they arrive in Australia, but people travelling from Australia to the Pacific Islands or New Zealand would have to quarantine).
L-R: AUSVEG National Manager – Public Affairs Tyson Cattle, Member for Calare Andrew Gee, AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside
L-R: AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside, Member for Forrest Nola Marino, AUSVEG National Manager – Public Affairs Tyson Cattle
At the time of writing, industry was still working to better understand the Prime Minister’s comments regarding bilateral agreements with the states on health protocols for Pacific Workers. Click here to view the media statement from today’s National Cabinet meeting.
Industry will update growers once that information is confirmed.
AUSVEG and the Horticulture Council have continued to highlight this issue via the media as well, and will continue to use all media platforms to help ensure industry gets a result.
Some of the various media reports are below:
- Growers call for workers bubble – The Australian
- Tourism Australia launches campaign targeting kiwis – ABC
- Calls for Pacific bubble to ease labour shortage – The Land
Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement
The Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement is coming up to its 1st birthday.
The agreement, which is targeted at semi-skilled and skilled horticulture labour, has been largely impacted by the COVID pandemic and international border closures. However, as part of the agreement which industry signed, there is a 12-month review.
The review allows industry and government to improve the agreement and allow it to better suit industry’s needs.
If growers have any feedback on the agreement, please reach out to Tyson Cattle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ACCC Perishable Goods Inquiry released
The ACCC has released the findings of the Perishable Goods inquiry.
You can read the release from Federal Government here.
NFF Horticulture Council meeting
The NFF Horticulture Council held its 4th and final meeting for 2020, where a range of issues were discussed, none more so than the current labour issue as stated above.
Other items discussed included:
- Health Star Rating for Juice
- National Labour Hire Licencing
- Biosecurity risks including Cut Flower Imports risk
- Fair Farms roll out
- Trade issues with China
National Lost Crop Register
AUSVEG is urging growers to utilise the National Lost Crop Register to log their losses due to the lack of labour available to vegetable producers across Australia.
Growcom, the peak horticulture body in Queensland, has led the design and development of the Register in collaboration with industry colleagues.
This initiative will help AUSVEG and other representative bodies to continue to advocate to government to urgently address the critical labour shortage.
It is vitally important that, as an industry, we record and track these losses. As this issue unfolds, the evidence that we gather through this national register will enable us to inform decision-making and improve our ability to advocate for greater government intervention where necessary.
AUSVEG urges growers to make entries to the register as new losses are realised. These could be experienced as a direct result of not having access to enough labour to pick or pack some of your produce. Growers can be assured that all entries are entered anonymously.