Fruit farmers have been forced to destroy their crops or leave them to rot, given a severe labour hole blown open by the pandemic. The government estimates the industry requires an injection of 26,000 fruit pickers
The Prime Minister confirmed national cabinet had made a bilateral agreement to “unlock” the shortage.
The agreement means seasonal workers would, under specific health orders, be able to enter into states for work but would be confined to those jurisdictions.
“That will unlock the ability for the Commonwealth to provide seasonal worker visas which will confine those seasonal workers in those jurisdictions so they remain completely under the health control of those states and territories,” Mr Morrison said.
The number of seasonal workers (WHMs) in Australia has more than halved since December 2019 as a result of tight restrictions on international arrivals, leaving the agriculture and hospitality industries, heavily-reliant on temporary workers, reeling reports www.news.com.au
National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar has touted the idea of a Pacific Island travel bubble to ease the strain on agriculture.
“People aren’t planting crops, they’re worried about being able to harvest them. It already is having an impact,” he told Sky News.
“If we can work with governments at the Commonwealth and state level to get some flexibility and agreement around quarantining costs and measures in place, then hopefully we’ll see a reduction in impact.”
Mr Morrison lauded Queensland’s very successful on-farm quarantine seasonal workers program, which had supported the state’s agricultural sector.
He said on-farm quarantine could provide increased capacity to ensure that Australians wanting to return home could but that those economic needs were also met.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said up to 20,000 workers were needed across the horticultural sector.
“We will also continue to work with Dr Kelly around some other countries where a bubble might be able to be set up,” Mr Andrews said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would like to see international students and skilled migrants return to Australia next year.
However, she made it clear she was “not happy” to see the quarantine system move out of the hotels at this stage.