By LOUISE ACKLAND*
Amazing isn’t it? The Ag Visa has been a bone of contention between the Federal Government Coalition partners for years and yet suddenly the issue can be resolved overnight!
If it could be done as quickly as that when it suits their purposes, why have farmers been allowed to struggle and lose out for so long?
If this visa actually happens and provides a much-needed boost to the numbers of workers desperately needed on our farms then it will be warmly welcomed by many farmers.
If this visa actually happens then it will provide a far more accessible avenue of suitable workers, especially for small farmers, than the expensive lottery otherwise known as the Seasonal Worker Program.
All the usual suspects are already decrying the idea and the unions are forecasting an explosion of exploitation and the crusaders for the Seasonal Workers Program claiming that the visa will decimate the Pacific scheme as farmers flood to the more flexible option.
The outpouring of grievance has only just begun.
Apparently however, the introduction of this visa is contingent on a number of things, including agreements with nominated countries, and also the establishment of suitable accommodation and isolation facilities such as those in Paringa, SA, which our leaders seem to be so enamoured of.
You can’t trust farmers to offer accommodation themselves after all.
The get-out clause however is that the State Government’s will be expected to pony-up for this expense.
Dan Andrews paying for large scale infrastructure to benefit farmers in the Mallee?
And let’s not even get into the argument about who will pay the costs of the worker’s quarantines, and that the only flights available nowadays are at business class rates.
So, if grower A needs 20 workers for five weeks, does he/she get to pay all the costs so that the workers can then move onto grower B?
Cheaper to drop the crop on the ground and mulch it.
In the grand tradition of policy-on-the-run development, the proposal is for these workers to stay in Australia for nine months and then return home for three months for a total of three years.
No details are available yet as to how this will be monitored. Tracking bracelets? Micro chipping? Perhaps farmers will be made responsible and accountable, with the expansion of another division of government oversight at our expense?
The nominated deadline of the end of the year is a wonderful aspiration but highly dubious.
Far more likely is that any implementation will be well past the harvest period for almost every crop imaginable this year.
Some positive moves have occurred to ease the pressure such as the ability for Working Holiday Makers to extend their visas if they are working in agriculture and these are welcome, but do not come close to solving the shortage.
One thing we can be very sure of, there is much more going on than visas.
The speed and ease with which this has come about is a sure sign that it is covering up for something else and results in Australia doing the bidding of the UK and US against China − even though our trade with either is small in comparison and ignores forecasts that within 10 years China’s economy will be twice the size of the US.
Or is it just a ruse to stem the votes that are absolutely hemorrhaging from the Nats all over the nation?
No matter what the motivation – don’t hold your breath.
* Louise Ackland is
co-proprietor of Payne’s Farm Contracting Pty Ltd.