The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) hopes the Prime Minister’s ‘new’ temporary visa programme will better address the labour needs currently constraining agriculture.
NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar said access to skilled workers was essential to the continued growth and productivity of Australian agriculture but unfortunately critical skill shortages existed across many farm industries.
“Overseas workers are important in meeting these shortages, however we have had longstanding issues with access to the 457 visa program,” Mr Mahar said.
The current program does not recognise enough of the skills Australian farmers require, largely because many occupations have their skill levels classified too low to meet the required threshold.
“The reality is that in farming, much of the training is done on-the-job and experience is valued more highly than tertiary qualifications,” Mr Mahar said.
Labour agreements have been negotiated in the pork and dairy industries to overcome barriers to access for 457 visas for a “senior stockperson (piggery)” and “senior dairy cattle farm worker” roles respectively.
“However this process is not preferable with negotiating labour agreements a time consuming and resource intensive process,” Mr Mahar said.
Mr Mahar said more detail on the Federal Government’s new visa program was required before the NFF could ‘welcome’ the announcement.
“It is definitely an opportunity to tailor a working visa program to assist agriculture’s workforce needs,” Mr Mahar said.
“As the representative body for Australian farming, we’d value an opportunity to consult with the Federal Government on the needs of the farm sector from a temporary visa program.”