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Victorian farmer body rejects Labor’s ag visa plan

Terry Sim, April 27, 2022

VFF president Emma Germano: Labor’s ag visa plan ignores industry consultation

VICTORIA’S peak farming body has criticised Labor’s foreign worker ag visa plans as the Opposition and Coalition swapped barbs on social media.

The Australian Labor Party yesterday announced it would reform the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme’s Seasonal Worker Program and expand the PALM Pacific Labour Scheme.

Labor said this would be done by establishing a dedicated agriculture visa stream under the PALM, creating a robust and sustainable four-year visa, with portability, strong oversight mechanisms, and protections and rights for workers.

Keneally expands on Labor’s ag visa plans

Labor’s Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing.

Late yesterday on Twitter, Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally rejected any suggestion Labor was axing Australia’s ag visa, but admitted the source countries would change under Labor’s plan.

“Today Labor announced we support an Ag Visa and we will relocate the Govt’s Ag Visa to the Pacific Labour programs,” she tweeted.

“Exact same visa. All that changes are the source countries.”

Ms Keneally also tweeted that “Labor’s Ag Visa – 55,000 pre-screened workers ready to go. The Govt’s Ag Visa – no one.”

And on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing with Fran Kelly yesterday, Ms Keneally reiterated that Labor was supporting an ag visa.

“The difference between Labor and the government is the source countries; the government sought to undermine the Pacific Australia Mobility Program by introducing an ag visa for ASEAN nations only.

“What we are doing is taking the government’s ag visa and relocating it under the Pacific island labour mobility program.”

Ms Keneally said Labor’s ag visa plan would be “uncapped”, while the government’s ag visa program had not landed one worker.

“We know that it is capped at a 1000 a year, we know that it is not working.

“What we are delivering is what the farmers want in terms of the visa architecture,” she said.

“The only thing that changes are the source countries, where the workers come from — there are 55,000 pre-screened workers (from the Pacific) ready to go, ready to come to Australia.”

Ms Keneally said although the government has not released the details of its ag visa Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam.

“But let me be clear, we will honour any agreement that has been struck with Vietnam and we will work with them upon coming to government to work through what they have actually been promised by the Morrison Government.”

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud also tweeted “This just keeps getting better.”

“Just a few hours in & @KKeneally says Labor have changed their Ag Visa policy!

“They will now honour the agreement with Vietnam,” he tweeted.

“But … @JulieCollinsMP & @AlboMP said it didn’t exist? What about the other 3 countries we’re in negotiations with?” Mr Littleproud concluded.

And in another tweet, Mr Littleproud included a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade fact sheet pointing out that the Coalition’s ag visa was not capped and was demand-driven.

Click here to read a clearer version of the DFAT Fact sheet.

VFF follows NFF in opposing Labor’s ag visa plan

Today, consistent with the National Farmers Federation’s position on Labor’s proposal, the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) said federal Labor’s agriculture visa proposal will do nothing to fill the critical workforce gaps and ignored more than 12 months of consultation between the industry and decision makers.

VFF president Emma Germano said the plan lacks vision and ignores key pillars of the existing agriculture visa plan, including sourcing workers from the Pacific region.

“It’s been twelve months of working with the government to develop a framework that complements Pacific workers.

“The Pacific region must remain a central foundation in any proposed plan, but we must also look to other countries to help fill the void,” she said.

“We absolutely need fit for purpose and robust visas from a number of countries.

“We know from the countless industry submissions that they are vital to our workforce,” Ms Germano said.

Ms Germano added that Federal Labor had failed to consult adequately with industry on their plans.

“Despite numerous attempts by industry to consult with Federal Labor, we haven’t had a genuine opportunity to provide the input needed to make a real change.

“How can any decision maker make the right choice without talking to the very people it will impact?” she asked.

“It’s really disappointing this policy has been released without first consulting with any stakeholders.”

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