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    Bridget McKenzie.

AgLife: Growing workforce

Horticulture growers in the Mallee electorate will have better access to labour during this season’s fruit harvest.

Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the Federal Government was acting on concerns raised by growers across the country with a Regional Agriculture Migration Package.

She said it was a practical response to a need for greater access to migrant labour in the region.

“This package from our government shows what effective local representation can do for a community,” she said.

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“Local member Anne Webster has been advocating for her community to get better access to a migrant workforce and has highlighted just how complex the issue is.

“This package is about getting the right labour at the right time at the right place, making sure there is suitable accommodation available and ensuring compliance with workplace laws.

“Importantly, the package will give growers, especially smaller growers, access to the Seasonal Worker Programme pilot, with a regional coordinator to help them club together to provide the volume of work needed to attract and sustain the harvest workforce.

“The Wimmera-Mallee is a critically important food-producing region – accounting for 10 percent of all horticulture farms and generating more than $1.35-billion for our national economy – we can’t risk having that valuable fruit rot on the orchard floor.”

The changes mean up to an additional 1000 Pacific workers could be available this season, building on almost 4000 additional places available to workers from Vietnam, Thailand and Poland under the Work and Holiday visa program.

Dr Webster said the program was a win for the region.

“I’ve been taking the concerns of our growers to Canberra for months now and I’m pleased to see we have been listened to,” she said.

“We need to make sure these workers have appropriate places to live in our vibrant regions.

“Through this package, we’ll put an accommodation broker in the Wimmera-Mallee to work on innovative accommodation solutions.

“That’ll come from active, constructive partnership with local councils, state governments, industry, and communities.

“We have a chance to make sure we can get the fruit off the trees for our growers and generate additional economic activity through the accommodation component of the program. That adds up to a win-win for the Mallee.”

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash said the extension of the Seasonal Worker Programme pilot to the Wimmera-Mallee was for an additional two years.

“The government is committed to backing Australian farmers by improving access to seasonal workers to support regional communities and small businesses,” she said.

“The pilot will allow additional workers to assist eligible Australian growers for the upcoming harvest season.”

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman said while his first priority was to fill jobs with Australian citizens, the immigration system helped to grow local economies and address regional skills gaps.

The entire November 27, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire November 27, 2019 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!