17 December, 2020
$6000 dollar grant starts slow
So far only 148 workers have taken up the Federal Government’s offer of a $6000 bonus to move to rural areas and help pick fruit.
Only 148 workers have taken up the Federal Government’s offer of a $6000 bonus to move to rural areas and help pick fruit.
The Relocation Assistance Program offers workers up to $6000 to cover things like transport, accommodation and uniforms, provided the employee works a minimum of six weeks in a rural zone that is at least 90 minutes from their home.
However, the latest figures from the Department of Employment provided to the ABC, show just 148 people have taken up the government’s offer in the first month, despite there being one million Australians currently looking for work.
The Queensland State Government has also launched the similar Back to Work in Agriculture Incentive Scheme which offers workers who relocate up to $1,500 in rebates. Since launching nearly 2 months ago this offer has only had one successful applicant with 30 people in the process of applying.
The nation's horticulture industry is projecting a shortfall of 26,000 fruit and vegetable pickers this harvest season due to the shutting of international borders that has kept many working holiday-makers locked out.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said cash incentives for Australian workers were only one part of the solution to the rural labour hire problem and said states should be focussed on allowing more Pacific Islander workers into the country to help fill the gap.
"We haven't relied on it [the relocation incentive scheme], we have made sure that we have had complementary measures to try and tackle this in any way we can with domestic supply as well as an international supply of workers," he said.
"It's now really the responsibility of the states to bring Pacific Island workers in if we can't get Australians to undertake it.”
“The only impediment is the states, they have to work with industry to bring people in, and making sure they have the quarantine plans, because they wanted to own it.”
General Manager of local recruitment firm QITE Jillian Trout said it is too early to tell if the $6000 grant is working.
“We are not going to know how many people have been paid, because you have to work for six weeks before you can get the money.”
“One of the criteria is that the six weeks have to be worked, so you can be registered but the money won’t be paid until the end of the six weeks as it’s based on a reimbursement model.”
“Since the announcement, our workload has definitely gone up with more people enquiring about farm work in the region.”
“We are getting lots of emails and phone calls about it every day.
“In the past 4 weeks we have registered about 50 people, that’s for people who have just started work or some that will start in the next few weeks.”
As for the projected shortfall of workers of the summer, Jillian says that if farmers are flexible and don’t leave their staffing arrangements to the last second, there should be enough workers to go around.
“If farmers can be flexible and not just insist on backpackers, then we are able to accommodate them,” she said.
“Where we may run into some issues is if we get a call on at 4pm on a Friday afternoon and they need 20 workers to start at 6am on Monday, then we may not be able to fulfil their needs.
“The more time and prep that farmers can provide us with the more ability we have to source workers for them.”