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Citrus Australia welcomes Labor government’s pledge to boost biosecurity, education and trade

Citrus Australia congratulates Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the new Labor government on their election success and looks forward to contributing to the fulfilment of its pre-election commitments on biosecurity, water security, skills-based education, trade diversification and labour.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with newly appointed Agriculture Minister, Senator Murray Watt, Water and Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, Education Minister Jason Clare, Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor and Trade Minister Don Farrell,” Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said.

“I have been encouraged by statements from Prime Minister Albanese during his campaign of Labor’s commitment to strengthening biosecurity, implementing recommendations from the 2019 Migrant Workers’ Taskforce report, and its plan for Fee-Free TAFE courses, and commitment to give agriculture a direct say in skills training.

“The citrus industry contributes $900m to the Australian economy, including $540m in exports, and is a crucial contributor to the economic and social health of regional and rural communities.

“Labor’s pre-election commitment to areas crucial to maintaining the health of our industry and supporting future growth was well received. We now look forward to working with each Minister and their departments to ensure the needs of our industry are both heard and met.”

Recommendations from the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce report includes additional resources for the Fair Work Ombudsman and adopting a National Labour Hire Registration Scheme.

“Citrus Australia has long called for a National Labour Hire Licensing Scheme, which we firmly believe will weed out unscrupulous labour contractors and reduce exploitation of workers.

“A stronger FWO will also ensure the minority of businesses in our industry behaving badly will be discovered and punished accordingly.”

Citrus Australia has also called for critical funding and resources to finalise the National Biosecurity Strategy, which will build capacity and service provision within government departments, as well as funding for a three-year project to map the citrus supply chain in Australia.

“Plant biosecurity has traditionally been underfunded, particularly when compared to animal biosecurity, and as a result the sector is increasingly vulnerable.

“Plant biosecurity agencies require additional funding and government support for the National Biosecurity Strategy, currently being drafted, will provide direction through to 2030.”

Citrus Australia welcomes the new government’s pre-election commitment to genuine trade diversification, and will ask it to assist through Ministerial and high-ranking government official representation.

“Citrus Australia recently acquired a government grant to assist its efforts in expanding export opportunities in India and would welcome a greater hands-on diplomatic approach to assist our efforts.

“There has been much hard work and investment through all sectors of industry to grow our export market sales to as high as $540 million annually.

“Maintaining those markets and developing new markets to accommodate growth in the industry will take a similar level of effort and commitment and we call on the government to provide Ministerial representation on the front line.”

Citrus Australia looks forward to working with Labor to incentivise education of Australian youth into horticulture career pathways by funding collaborative industry initiatives to develop education programs, revitalise existing traineeships, apprenticeships, and other tertiary education by strengthening partnerships between industry and universities and TAFEs.

“We are preparing a program to improve education opportunities, and employment pathways, in the citrus industry, and wider horticulture.

“Currently there is a huge demand for skilled and semi-skilled staff but not the responding pull through of students looking for careers in our industry.

“Our plan is to not only inform high school and tertiary graduates, as well as teachers and parents, of the career and lifestyle choices a career in citrus can provide, but also to offer industry assistance to the education sector where needed.

“Part of this plan will involve working with growers and citrus businesses to develop internships, providing a conduit to industry experience and potential apprenticeships, and we look forward to discussing how government can support this.

“It is crucial that the free TAFE courses Labor will usher in produce the type of employee that the industry needs, that the subjects covered are fit for the modern-day horticulturalists our industry needs, that they are across the technology, the farm management practices of farming in this century.”

Mr Hancock said Citrus Australia will seek to meet with each Minister to hear Labor’s plan, and discuss industry’s requirements, for water, including the Murray Darling Basin; labour, including the real need for an Ag Visa accessible to workers from all ASEAN countries; and addressing the housing crisis in rural and regional Australia.

“We are hopeful that Labor’s commitment to boost Pacific permanent migration, including entire families of PALM workers, will include solutions to the accommodation shortage in rural and regional Australia within the next 12 months.

“A strategic investment plan across all three levels of government, aligning planning and building laws to encourage and allow private investment, is desperately needed.

“Increasing availability of appropriate accommodation for workers is critical in seeing the agricultural sector grow.”

For more information:
Stephen Cooke
Citrus Australia
Tel: +61 427 124 437 

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