PRESSURE from agricultural and horticultural industry groups is being applied on the National Party of Australia to stick to its pre-election promise of revisiting the Ag Visa Scheme.
Industry lobby groups and a large population of farmers across the country believe a specific ag visa will be beneficial to smaller growers as it will provide greater flexibility and will allow them to send workers where they are required when the work is available.
As it relates to the migrant workforce, an ag visa will ensure the upfront cost of healthcare, airfares and accommodation that an employer is required to provide under the current scheme will become the regulators’ responsibility.
In addition, employers will be accredited under the Ag Visa Scheme.
Despite assurances from National Party of Australia leader Michael McCormack in April that the scheme will be “revisited” after the federal election, concerns are escalating amongst lobby groups that nothing will be done as Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears to have thrown cold water on the idea.
Mr Morrison noted that previous reforms regarding the backpacker visas, the Seasonal Worker Program and the Pacific Labour Scheme could address a lack of workers experienced in rural and regional areas.
FNQ Growers President and Biboohra mango farmer Joe Moro said an ag visa is something that is nationally supported by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and the horticultural industry across Australia.
“This is something we have been advocating on behalf of for the past two years and we are adamant that we want to see an ag visa implemented,” he said.
“It is beneficial as it will be a scheme more specifically tailored to sourcing work in the agricultural and horticultural industry in regional Australia.
“In addition, it will also provide an avenue for workers to become permanent residents.”
Mr Moro said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reluctance is something that can be changed through the consistent campaigns of farmers and industry groups.
“I understand the Prime Minister would prefer to just make improvements to the current system rather than implement an ag visa,” he said.
“And while we welcome bettering the current system, we’re still unwavering in our belief that an ag visa is the best thing for farmers and the agricultural and horticultural industry as a whole.”