Champion for the little guy John ‘Wacka’ Williams has been announced as part of a new National Agricultural Labour Advisory Committee that will secure a sustainable agricultural workforce for the future.

The retired NSW Nationals senator and farmer, who fought hard for the Banking Royal Commission and championed common-sense during his time in Parliament, is no stranger to working hard for the land.

Mr Williams will bring his rural expertise, industry policy and hands-on agricultural experience to the committee.

Nationals Deputy Leader and Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie, said Australian agriculture had its best years ahead of it, despite current difficulties caused by drought and bushfires.

“Workforce needs is one of the top two issues farmers raise with me no matter where I go, or what sector they’re from,” Senator McKenzie said.

“This important taskforce, promised at the election, will provide the government with critical advice about meeting agriculture’s workforce needs now and into the future.

“They’ll be looking to give us advice to achieve the best balance of international and national labour and ways to make agriculture a career of choice for our young people. I want Australians to recognise that they can have a rewarding, fulfilling, high-tech career out in rural and regional Australia working in agriculture.”

“If agriculture is to grow to its full potential we need to make sure farmers have access to a fit-for-purpose workforce – that’s the right worker, at the right place, at the right time of the season.”

Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie

The industry experts on this committee will provide the Nationals in Government with advice about the medium and long term ways we can achieve the best possible workforce for Australian agriculture and deliver a second election commitment for us – the $1.9 million National Agricultural Workforce Strategy.

The 11 member committee will be led by Chairman John Azarias, who has a strong background in conducting prominent government reviews. Mr Williams will serve as a Deputy Chair alongside Professor Ruth Nettle.

“They’ll lead the committee’s work to assess the current state of Australia’s agriculture workforce and make recommendations to ensure the industry’s future international and domestic workforce needs can be met,” Senator McKenzie said.

“Some of that is about showing how rewarding agriculture is – it’s where science meets practice, it’s where computer engineering meets the real world.

“Technological developments, our changing climate and our export focus mean the potential for big changes in the sort of workforce agriculture might need in the next 20 to 30 years – we’ll need people to do jobs we haven’t thought of yet.

“We have an ambitious goal to help make Australian agriculture a $100 billion industry by 2030. The work of this committee is a key plank in enabling that vision.

“This committee will provide a strategy by July 2020 that identifies tangible actions that should be considered if we’re to ensure the workforce we need for the future. That will include looking at school education, vocational education, and higher education.

“It will be important for the committee to hear the views of those in the industry, and the committee will undertake national consultation with a range of stakeholders in the coming months.

“I look forward to receiving the strategy next year and seeing how our government can support the agricultural sector achieve the workforce it needs.”

Click here for more information about the committee and its work program.