Victorian orchardists and horticulture farm businesses and communities stand to benefit from an announcement made by the Australian Government to extend working holiday maker and other visas amid the COVID-19 crisis with requirements to support the on-going health of regional communities.
Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie welcomed confirmation that visa changes will allow Pacific seasonal workers, working holiday makers and a range of other visa holders who are unable to depart Australia to continue to work until this health crisis has passed or they are able to return to their home countries.
“After speaking to many farmers, especially in the horticultural industry, and advocating on their behalf, this is great news. It gives certainty for seasonal workers and temporary visa holders of continued work,” Senator McKenzie said.
“It also gives certainty for our farmers who rely on a reliable and secure workforce to assist with food production. Temporary visa holders fill a critical workforce gap in these sectors.
“Sadly, there's been a significant number of Australians who've lost their jobs because of the economic impacts of COVID-19, and the Australian Government is ensuring that will not be the case in our vital agriculture sectors where time is critical when it comes to harvesting crops.
“I also welcome the announcement that we are keeping market testing requirements in place to ensure recruitment of Australians first.
“The visa extensions will ensure farm businesses have the skills to protect their interests and maximise their profits.”
Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the temporary measures enabled workers already here to extend their stay and remain lawfully in Australia until they are able to return to their home countries.
“At the same time it is critical we manage this labour force to support the on-going health of regional communities and we've acted to include requirements to ensure visa holders follow self-isolation requirements when they move between regions,” Minister Littleproud said.
“The Australian government stands with industry and will continue to provide support where it is required most to ensure we’re still standing strong when we make it through this pandemic.”
The National Farmers Federation has developed best practice guidance for farmers regarding requirements for accommodation and working arrangements for farm workers (either domestic or migrant) during the covid-19 outbreak.
The Federal Government was working closely with State and Territory Governments and industry to ensure appropriate health controls were in place for the ongoing health and well-being of our regional communities.
“We have asked the Chief Medical Officer to review these guidelines and it is critical that they are then considered by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee,” Minister Littleproud said.