Thursday, February 23, 2023
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
The cost of living and food continues to rise, with Federal Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox saying a contributing factor is agriculture workforce shortages, adding that the Federal Government refuses to accept the Ag Visa as part of the solution.
In last week’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Senate estimates hearing, Senator Penny Wong revealed that more ASEAN countries were interested in joining the Ag Visa.
“Agriculture Minister Murray Watt wouldn’t even approach the subject during estimates, opting to refer all Ag Visa questions to the Foreign Affairs Committee, which led to the revelation,” Mr Willcox said.
“This omission from Senator Wong showed Labor had no idea what the agriculture industry needed and no regard for fixing the cost-of-living crisis.
“It is disappointing to hear more countries wanted to be a part of the Ag Visa, which would bring more workers to Australia, but Labor is refusing to accommodate them,” Mr Willcox said.
“Australia needs 172,000 workers to get food from paddock to plate but the Federal Government has left farmers unable to plant or produce as much food.
“Why is Labor denying Australian farmers the workers they so desperately need?
“Common sense tells you when supply goes down, price goes up, which is why Australians are paying more at the grocery check-out right now.”
Mr Willcox added Labor made an obvious mistake to cancel the Ag Visa, which was designed to supplement the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme for workers in southeast Asia.
He added that figures show food and non-alcoholic beverages have increased by 9.2 per cent over 12 months.
“I have had many local farmers contact me with labour shortage issues. Local Burdekin Farmer Sib Rapisarda from Rapisarda Enterprises who is a leading producer in Horticulture and the sugar cane industry said The PALM scheme is not bringing in enough workers and in fact he would like to see the AG Visa be an option for anyone no matter what country they are from.” Mr Willcox said
“I have had cases where I have trained workers from other countries and are unable to keep them as there is no appropriate VISA they can apply through,” Mr Rapisarda said.
“Labour shortages are our number one issue, and the knock-on effect will be disastrous for Australia if this is allowed to continue. Something needs to be done now or food shortages will be imminent.”
Federal Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox