SHEEP producers are expected to welcome recent changes to the Federal Government’s Seasonal Worker Programme.
Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash and Minister for Agriculture the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, today announced the expansion of the programme from primarily horticulture to the broader agricultural sector, increasing the types of low and unskilled jobs it included.
Minister Cash said employers in a range of agriculture industries including cattle, sheep, grain and mixed enterprises will now be able to apply to be part of the programme.
Sheepmeat Council of Australia president Jeff Murray believed sheep producers would welcome being able to access seasonal workers from overseas.
“Seasonal labour is always an issue for us around the shearing and wool handling industry.
“Labour shortage is always an issue in our industry,” he said.
“I think this will be an invaluable asset to the sheep producers of the nation.”
Mr Murray believed most of the seasonal workers might come into the eastern states, rather than his home state of Western Australia.
“But from a national perspective, I think it has got to be good.
“Those people, from what I understand, can come back here year-after-year if they want to and may become really valuable assets to producers who can access the same people year-after-year,” he said.
If the programme ran for several years it would allow producers to train the workers, he said.
The Federal Government said the changes announced to the Seasonal Worker Programme will provide significant benefits to Australian agricultural employers and industries while also contributing to the economic development of Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste.
“The Seasonal Worker Programme has been highly effective in helping Australian businesses overcome seasonal labour shortages,” Ms Cash said.
Mr Joyce said the changes to the Special Program visa (subclass 416) meant more agricultural businesses would benefit in regional areas where labour could be in short supply during peak periods.
“This is good news for Australian farming enterprises that now have more options for seasonal labour and can better plan for their harvests and other busy periods with much greater certainty.
“This is also good news for citizens from our Seasonal Worker Programme partner countries in the Pacific Islands as well Timor Leste who will now have more opportunities to benefit from a wider variety of work experiences while also earning a decent wage,” he said.
Critical safeguards are built into the programme, such as the requirement for employers to fully test the local job market before they can apply to recruit workers under the programme, the government said.
“While we are determined to ensure businesses across Australia have access to the seasonal workers they need, we are equally determined that no Australian misses out on a job,” Ms Cash said.
The Seasonal Worker Programme assists Australian employers unable to find enough local Australian workers to meet seasonal labour needs and contributes to the economic development of Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste.
Workers brought in by employers are subject to the same workplace relations and work health and safety safeguards as Australian job seekers.
Since July 1 2012, more than 8600 visas have been issued to people under the Programme to support the seasonal labour needs of around 70 approved employers.
To apply to recruit seasonal workers visit: www.employment.gov.au/information-employers-how-recruit-seasonal-workers.
For more information about the Seasonal Worker Programme visit: www.employment.gov.au/seasonal-worker-programme.