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LETTER: Horticultural industry

SIR, – Doctor Johanna Howe, a labour and migration law expert at the University of Adelaide, suggests we use undocumented migrant workers to help save the horticultural industry.

The horticultural industry produces 93 percent of the food consumed in Australia.

Because of chronic labour shortages in the industry, made much worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, she says we are going to see ‘higher prices for groceries, less varieties and a contraction of growers’.

We urgently need the crop to be picked in November and December this year and not left to rot on the vine or ground.  

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Howe makes the point that the Federal Government and some state governments are trying to encourage young Australians to go fruit picking. But all past schemes to incentivise fruit picking for young Aussies have not worked. 

Young Australians are not lazy. But she says that it is just that the work ‘is physically hard, in inclement weather and in regional areas’.

Australia is not unique in this regard. All over the world, a migrant workforce generally picks fruit and vegetables. 

Given that 80 to 90 percent of horticultural workers in Mildura and Robinvale areas are undocumented migrant workers, Dr Howe says ‘the Federal Government should find a way, during the pandemic, to convert the status of these migrant workers so that they had a pathway to residency’.

She says this would be an ‘immediate way to provide trained, productive and highly motivated workers right now’ to an industry that desperately needs them.  

Let’s give the undocumented workers a helping hand, while saving a vital Australian industry and providing lower prices for consumers of fruit and vegetables.  

The ball is in your court – Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. 

Robert Blakeley


The entire October 14, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!