Labor has promised to upend the scheme which encourages seasonal workers to come to Australia, but farmers have condemned the plan saying it kills the farm visa.
If elected, the Labor Party says it will tackle economic challenges in the Pacific, while easing Australia’s agricultural worker shortages.
He proposed reforming the Pacific Australia Labor Mobility (PALM) seasonal worker scheme and expanding the Pacific Labor Scheme.
The Labor Party said its plan, announced in Darwin on Tuesday, includes a four-year agricultural visa under the PALM, as well as cutting initial costs for employers and extending the stay of seasonal workers from nine to 11 months. .
Labor spokesman for international development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, said the changes will also allow seasonal workers to bring family members to live and work in Australia.
“These visas are good for up to four years and one of the reasons they haven’t been clawed back as much as we would have liked is because workers can’t bring their families over.”
Mr Conroy said the current farming visa system was not working and had let Australian farmers down.
“We will place the agricultural visa in the Pacific workforce programs,” he said.
“This government’s current agricultural visa is not working. Not a single worker has entered this country on the agricultural visa.”
Labor says its visa scheme will allow 55,000 pre-screened Pacific workers to access the scheme.
But the proposal was criticized by the National Federation of Farmers.
“Unfortunately, the Labor Party today confirmed its intention to scrap the Farmer Developed Agricultural Visa,” said NFF CEO Tony Mahar.
“The NFF and our members have been advocating for an agricultural visa for over five years… Labor has turned its back on a chance to be part of a solution to the sector’s labor crisis.”
The NFF says the agricultural visa will be retained in name only and limited to workers from Pacific countries who are already well supported by other worker programs.
The NFF has applied for the visa since 2016 to meet the needs of low-skilled to highly-skilled agricultural workers from countries outside the Pacific.
The Australian Workers’ Union, which has actively campaigned against the farm visa, has welcomed the Labor Party’s farm labor policy.
AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said integrating the “failed” agricultural visa into the more established PALM program would build on its success and strengthen ties with Pacific neighbours.
‘Australia does not need to run an agricultural sector that intentionally turns a blind eye to worker exploitation and abuse,’ he said.
“We can meet Australian labor standards on farms while continuing to grow our industry.”
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the Labor Party had “ripped up” the agricultural visa farmers desperately needed.
“The Australian Workers’ Union has succeeded and will kill all hope of finding a long-term solution to the labor problems in agriculture,” Mr Littleproud said.
‘What Labor announced today is what is already in place with a few tweaks on the sidelines of the Pacific Labor Mobility Scheme.’
Australian Associated Press