Federal Member for Flynn, Colin Boyce, has hosted Leader of The Nationals, David Littleproud, in the electorate of Flynn this week.
Mr Boyce and Mr Littleproud met with local growers in the North Burnett who are concerned about the Labor Government’s Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.
Mr Boyce said changes to the PALM scheme hindered agriculture by effectively taking away the tools to grow the nation’s food and fibre.
“David and I have heard loud and clear that Labor’s changes to the PALM scheme are making it even more difficult and costly for farmers to get their product from paddock to plate,” Mr Boyce said.
“The changes will require farmers to offer a minimum of 30 hours per week, even though agricultural work is seasonal work and weather-dependent.”
Mr Littleproud said Australia’s top peak food industry bodies warned that agriculture required an additional 172,000 workers, yet only around 16,000 have come in since Labor got into office.
“Labor does not understand the agriculture sector, while continuing to ignore the pleas from other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to send workers to Australia under the Agriculture Visa,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Growers in the North Burnett have every reason to be concerned with the skills crisis, which continues to drive up food prices.
“When supply goes down, prices go up, which is why every time Australians go to the checkout, their bill should have Anthony Albanese’s face on it.”
Hugh Tully, the Operations Manager at Ironbark Citrus said the business has been in operation for over 30 years and has been involved with the PALM scheme since the pilot over 12 years ago.
“We currently employ around 150 workers on the scheme and still have a large contingent of workers who have been with us from the outset,” Mr Tully said.
“In the past, the scheme has worked magnificently for us along with our workers, however the new changes within the scheme are entirely unworkable.
“Whoever came up with the minimum 30-hour week has never stepped foot on a farm before. The work is seasonal in nature and our work is governed by the weather. In the past the worker only had to average these hours over the period of their stay, and it worked well. We need that flexibility.
“I have heard numerous stories of employers pulling out of the scheme and I can understand why. It will affect the workers just as badly as it affects us.”