As the NSW and Australian agricultural sectors grapple with critical labour shortages ahead of a predicted record harvest season, NSW Nationals Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall has called for an overhaul of the country’s approach to seasonal work.
Mr Marshall declared his intent to work closely with the Queensland, Victorian, and Tasmanian Governments to establish an East Coast Agriculture Labour Task Force.
“The NSW Government is committed to stronger primary industries, a sector which is key to the food security of Australia and beyond, but the issues impacting labour availability need to be tackled now,” Mr Marshall said.
“Unfortunately, it is now at the stage where the states have to lead the response. I will work closely with my counterparts in Queensland, Victoria, and Tasmania to convene a cross-jurisdiction between officials, agricultural departments, and industry bodies.
“I am confident my fellow Ministers will see the benefits of this alliance and we will be able to sit down within weeks to progress initiatives quickly to strengthen our primary industries sector.”
The Task Force would:
- Identify opportunities to provide flexibility in the Commonwealth Pacific Mobility Programs to access workers and their movements within and across jurisdictions,
- Develop local initiatives and solutions to mobilise labour and equipment,
- Identify innovative tools, technology, processes, and machinery that will automate systems to reduce the reliance on temporary labour,
- Identify skills, education and training gaps that will support industry into the future,
- Develop a roadmap to address structural and reputational issues in the sector,
- Develop a communication strategy to promote jobs and careers in agriculture, and
- Advocate on behalf of the east coast states on issues of national importance.
“NSW has already led the way with support through the pandemic, including pioneering the Ag Workers’ Code, aiding the arrival of more than 2,000 foreign workers and subsidising their hotel quarantine costs to the tune of $3 million,” Mr Marshall said.
For more information, visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/home/covid-19.