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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Support Package to keep apprentices and trainees on the job

The Morrison Government is backing apprentices and trainees as part of the government’s economic response to the Coronavirus.

The $1.3 billion measure will ensure up to 70,000 small businesses can keep around 117,000 apprentices and trainees across the country in work and training.

The investment is part of the broader $17.6 billion package, designed to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business.

Federal Member for Bonner Ross Vasta MP said the Morrison Government had acted quickly to support small businesses in Bonner to retain their apprentices and trainees as part of the government’s Economic Response to the Coronavirus.

“This assistance will support our local businesses in Bonner to manage cash-flow challenges and help small businesses retain their apprentices and trainees,” Mr Vasta said.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash said apprentices and trainees were critical to meeting the skills needs of Australian employers.

“We want them to keep learning, keep getting those essential skills that our economy needs to keep business turning over, not just now, but well into the future,” Minister Cash said.

A 50 per cent wage subsidy of up to $21,000 will be available to small businesses which employ fewer than 20 full time employees, including those using a Group Training Organisation, to retain their apprentice or trainee.

The subsidy will also be available to businesses of any size and Group Training Organisations that re-engage an eligible apprentice or trainee who would otherwise lose their job.

Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships, the Hon Steve Irons MP said along with our $585 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package, this measure would ensure the Morrison Government continued the heavy lifting of building the skilled workforce our economy needs.

“We know industry needs more workers with technical, trade and practical skills,” Assistant Minister Irons said.

“We are backing Australians through incentives, funding and reform to ensure that the sector can deliver the skilled and responsive workforce to meet these needs.”

The new measure is in addition to existing apprenticeships incentives under the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program.

Businesses can register to be assessed for eligibility from April 2, 2020. To be eligible for the wage subsidy the apprentice or trainee must have been in-training with a small business as at March 1, 2020.

Further information on how to apply for the subsidy, including information on eligibility is available at:

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