Northern-based LNP Senator Ian Macdonald has welcomed the expansion of the Seasonal Workers Programme to include the agricultural sector in addition to the existing horticulture industry, fulfilling yet another commitment in the Northern Australia White Paper.
Senator Macdonald said the Programme’s expansion was further evidence of the Government’s commitment to stimulate jobs and economic growth across Northern Australia.
‘What this means is employers across a broader range of industries now have greater certainty around their seasonal labour requirements,” Senator Macdonald said.
The Seasonal Worker Programme helps Australian employers unable to find enough local workers to meet seasonal demands while contributing to the economic development of Pacific Island countries and Timor Leste.
Employers in a range of agricultural industries including cattle, sheep, grain and mixed enterprises, and accommodation industries in selected locations, will now be able to be part of the expanded Seasonal Worker Programme.
“This is great news particularly for those farming industries covered by the Pastoral Award, many of which are located across Northern Australia and are heavily reliant on a seasonal workforce,” Senator Macdonald said.
The Pastoral Award covers employers working in dairying, hatchery work, sowing, raising or harvesting crops grown as part of a crop broadacre mixed farming enterprise, assisting with livestock management/handling, and cleaning, fencing or assisting with well sinkning, dam sinking or trenching.
“We are talking about the types of jobs that locals aren’t willing or able to take on – in some cases they are labour intensive, and their seasonal nature does not suit everyone, but employers do have a requirement to test the local job market before accessing workers as part of this Programme.”
Senator Macdonald said one of commitments clearly identified in the Northern Australia White Paper was to expand the Seasonal Worker Programme to address seasonal labour shortages in the North.
The Programme was also extended to the accommodation industry in Tropical North Queensland and the Whitsundays and the Northern Territory in June last year.
“These industries form the backbone of Northern Australia, so any measure that will improve their productivity and efficiency will in turn provide a boost to the economic fabric underpinning the region.”
“A number of constituents have raised with me concern at what they anticipate will be a ‘backpacker’ labour shortage because of the Government’s decision to require backpacker workers to contribute to Australian tax revenues.
“This new programme will in my view help alleviate some of the shortage that may have been experienced in Northern Australia as a result of this new policy.”