Wool Processing

PALM change too late to incite shearing industry interest

Terry Sim, June 7, 2024

A CHANGE to the weekly minimum work hour requirement under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme seems to have arrived too late to benefit the shearing industry.

The change means that from 1 July 2024 employers of short-term workers will be required to offer 120 hours of work over four weeks, rather than 30 hours each and every week as had been planned.

The National Farmers’ Federation’s Horticulture Council has welcomed the changes as going a long way to ensuring it remains an accessible and viable workforce option for Australian farmers.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia chief executive officer Jason Letchford also said the change is welcomed as the previous arrangement made employing PALM workers unviable for most of the agricultural harvesting sector and including wool harvesting.

However, he said, the previous PALM arrangement requiring 30 hours of pay every week almost completely extinguished any interest from shearing contractors to even pursue the PALM scheme.

“Further to this, the inconsistency of government back-flipping on critical attributes of the scheme, leaves employers unconfident and not willing to take the risk on the program,” Mr Letchford said.

Mr Letchford said only one SCAA member in a remote area had been actively pursuing PALM workers but has just advised the association they have abandoned the process after two years of in-action from the different agencies involved.

“This winter, we almost have an over-supply of staff.

“The demand for shearers has peaked for now as flock numbers are not increasing any further with drier conditions in many regions etc,” Mr Letchford said.

“The landscape is very different from the past few years and has distinguished any interest in any foreign workers.”

NFF Horticulture Council chair Jolyon Burnett said the industry was encouraged the Albanese Government had heeded advice that the original settings would result in fewer employers engaging with PALM and fewer workers from the Pacific able to benefit from the opportunity of earning great wages in Australia.

“Business confidence in horticulture is at a low ebb right now, and a lot of that has got to do with a lack of certainty in our workforce options.

“The announced improvements will be a real shot in the arm for employers in the sector, and especially for those who have made significant accommodation and other capital investments to meet scheme requirements,” Mr Burnett said.


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  1. Don Mudford, June 12, 2024

    The wheels of governments turn slow. Australia needs four-year terms at all levels of government. Three years is a good check on excessive change; however, it just takes too long to get good things on the move.

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