Sunraysia’s fruit growers may be waiting six months for seasonal workers under the State Government’s quarantine arrangement with Tasmania.
Despite farmers’ livelihoods being on the line if they can’t get access to a seasonal workforce, Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas couldn’t guarantee that workers will actually be available by June 30 when asked by the Liberal Nationals in State Parliament this week.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh, PICTURED, slammed the delay, which has already caused the loss of millions of dollars in high-quality Victorian produce and dragged down productivity in the meat processing sector.
“A lack of seasonal workers has already left too many Victorian farmers with no option but to plough a year’s work into the ground,” Mr Walsh said.
“A workforce would already be available if the Andrews Labor Government had adopted the proposal put forward by industry and Aspen Medical in October last year to set up a dedicated quarantine facility in Mildura.
“Labor’s decision to punt responsibility for worker quarantine to Tasmania has already put Victorian farmers and meat processors at the back of the queue, but the Minister has delivered another hit to our agriculture sector by walking back her guarantee that workers will be on farm by June 30.
“Labor is all headline and no deadline, which will only leave more of our farmers facing the devastating decision to destroy a year’s hard work or leave it on the trees to rot.”
Ms Thomas this week continued to hide behind the myth that the Federal Government was holding up the process, despite other Australian states having set up a quarantine framework that’s successfully delivered workers on farm, Mr Walsh charged.
“Victorian farmers are also still in the dark on how much of the bill they’ll be forced to shoulder for quarantine,” he said.
According to the Victorian Government’s January 22 announcement, “under the deal between the two governments an initial 1500 workers from the Pacific Islands will undertake quarantine interstate … during the first half of 2021, with costs borne by the Victorian Government and agricultural industry.”
“Labor’s track record of promising big and delivering nothing for Victorian farmers destroys confidence the Andrews Government can actually get a single worker on farm,” Mr Walsh said.
“Farmers can’t afford to wait many more months for workers, they needed them yesterday, but instead the Andrews Labor Government is doing everything in its power to ensure our farmers don’t see the fruits of their labour this harvest.”