Delivering seasonal labour solutions for farmers in Queensland

The Australian Government is investing $33.7 million to support farmers by encouraging and incentivising Australians to take a ‘domestic gap year’ and eligible temporary visa holders to work in the agriculture sector this coming harvest season.

Federal Member for Bonner Ross Vasta MP said Queensland’s agriculture sector was facing unprecedented pressure on labour supply as a result of COVID-19.

“Through the 2020 Budget, the Liberal Nationals are investing $17.4 million in relocation support and $16.3 million in temporary Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY eligibility changes to incentivise people to take up seasonal farm work this summer,” Mr Vasta said.

“Relocation allowances of up to $6000 for Australians and up to $2000 for eligible visa holders will be available from 1 November to undertake seasonal work in agriculture.

“Under the Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY new criteria, a person who earns $15,000 through employment in the agricultural sector in regional Australia between 30 November 2020 and 31 December 2021 will be considered as independent for the purpose of YA (student) or ABSTUDY.

“This will significantly reduce the time needed for a young person to gain ‘independent’ status and claim Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY faster than under the existing criteria.

“These changes will support critical food production in Queensland so farm produce does not go to waste and will help ensure the agricultural sector continues to play a key role in our local community’s economic recovery.”

From 1 November 2020, relocation assistance will be available to people who relocate to harvest and regional areas to take up at least six weeks of agricultural work, including Australians who are not receiving income support and those with the right to work in Australia.

The Australian Government is also investing a further $9 million in the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) to ensure employers can meet critical seasonal labour needs.

This funding will help ensure that the SWP has the resources to accommodate the significant growth of the program and ensure appropriate oversight of the program is in place to protect the welfare of workers.

The Australian Government has been working with farmers since the onset of COVID-19. Measures already introduced to fill labour shortages in the agriculture sector:

  • providing visa extensions to allow temporary visa holders already here to continue to work in agriculture and for agriculture workers to stay with one employer for a longer period,
  • initiating a targeted recruitment trial under the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) to meet labour needs of Northern Territory mango growers which saw 162 experienced workers arrive from Vanuatu to help with the harvest;
  • announcing on 21 August the recommencement of targeted recruitment under the Pacific Labour Scheme and SWP to help meet the workforce needs of critical sectors, including agriculture.

In addition to the measures already rolled out to date, and announced in the budget, we are continuing to look at how we can support our agriculture sector by ensuring they have access to the workers they need now and into the future through the development of the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy.

We have also delivered a National Agriculture Workers’ Code to provide for the COVID-safe travel between states – five of eight Australian jurisdictions have implemented it except for Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.

More information on the additional support being provided can be found at:

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Call for donations for drought-stricken farmers

Federal Member for Bonner, Ross Vasta, today urged local residents and businesses to donate much-needed goods and supplies to farmers in South Western Queensland affected by drought, as part of a drive led by the National Malaya and Borneo Veterans Association.

“You can help out farmers and their families who are doing it tough by donating boxed non-perishable foods, toiletries, laundry products, cleaning items, and other goods for children including toys, games and books,” Mr Vasta said.

“My office in Wynnum is currently accepting donations, which will then be personally delivered by truck to farmers and their families out west.”

Mr Vasta said the next planned run in June, the third run since the drought relief project began, was dependent on the number of donations received.

He commended the National Malaya and Borneo Veterans Association along with other local groups for their joint effort in promoting the project and gathering donations.

Organiser David Brewer said the project was a worthwhile cause and that every single donation made a difference.

“The group has already done two runs that were very well received,” Mr Brewer said.

He stressed the donations were preferred already boxed to save on repacking time and to allow the goods to get to those in need sooner.

“We are also asking for more volunteers to assist in collecting donations from private residences,” Mr Brewer said.

“If we receive enough donations for the run to go ahead, we will also be seeking volunteers with vehicles that can transport up to 40 boxes to pick up donations from the drop-off points to deliver to our main storage depot in Sunnybank.”

Mr Vasta said the first two drought relief runs were very well received by farmers and their families, and he hoped enough donations would be made to make a third run out west possible.

He encouraged people to spare a thought for drought-affected farmers, and to read the poem that inspired the drought relief project, ‘Every Day We Bleed’ by Gary Fogarty (copies of which can be picked up at the office of Ross Vasta MP).

Donations can be left at the office of Ross Vasta MP, located at 69 Clara Street, Wynnum 4178.

For more information or to volunteer, please contact David Brewer on 07 3273 3721 or 0422 913 741.

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