Despite warnings of food shortages and price rises because of a severe shortage of workers, no state government has come to the table with a plan to bring foreign fruit pickers safely into Australia. Besides, just 355 unemployed Australians have joined the federal program that will see them reimbursed up to $6000 for costs incurred from relocating to take on a short-term agricultural job.
Growers in Victoria alone estimate that, within the next few weeks, they need 26,000 workers to pick the summer crops that are ripening now.
The national cabinet decided on December 11 that if the states submitted health protocols outlining measures such as on-farm quarantine and restrictions on interstate travel, the federal government would approve visas for seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands. But federal Agricultural Minister David Littleproud says no plans have been submitted so far.
Smh.com.au quoted him as saying: "It's disappointing no state has yet written to the Commonwealth with protocols to bring more foreign workers into Australia after National Cabinet reaffirmed states wanted to maintain ownership of these protocols. If the states don't understand the urgency of the situation then crops will be left in the paddock and consumers will pay more at the checkout."