The first charter flight of farm workers from the Pacific Islands has arrived in Queensland. One hundred and fifty workers, many from Tonga, arrived in Emerald in central Queensland last week to begin their two weeks on-farm quarantine. Queensland is the second state to welcome international workers after the Northern Territory's pilot program as the agriculture sector scrambles to address the expected labour shortage.
Growcom's Richard Shannon said that the workers came from places in the Pacific that had fewer cases of COVID-19 than in Australia, so requiring them to quarantine was overly cautious: "They have accommodation in place that allows them to physically isolate and distance themselves from not just other workers on their farms, but also, importantly, the local community. They'll be doing quarantine for two weeks on-farm, and they are also able to work while they do their quarantine."
Shannon said he did not know where workers from the other three charter flights would go, saying that was a matter between the labour hire industry and the Queensland and Federal Governments.
"We hope the next three flights travel as smoothly as this one and as a result open up this pathway in the future," he said. "Because 150 workers is a really great start."
The trial, agreed to by the Queensland Government before it went into caretaker mode before the election, was to iron out any kinks in the protocols and procedures, Mr Shannon told https://www.abc.net.au.