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 Calare and Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education, Andrew Gee said our agriculture sector in the Central West is 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.
“Relocation allowances of up to $6,000 for Australians and up to $2,000 for eligible visa holders will be available from 1 November to undertake seasonal work in agriculture,” Mr Gee said.
“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 ensure that our farm produce does not go to waste, while also helping to get more Aussies into work and more dollars into our local economy.
From 1 November 2020, relocation assistance will be available to people who relocate to harvest and regional areas to take up at least 6 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 Programme (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 Programme (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: https://www.dese.gov.au/budget-2020-21