New visa rules allow agriculture sector work to continue
MARANOA farm businesses and communities stand to benefit from an announcement made by the Australian Government to extend working holiday maker and other visas amid the COVID-19 crisis with requirements to support the ongoing health of regional communities.
Maranoa MP and Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the visa changes will allow Pacific seasonal workers, working holiday makers and a range of other visa holders who are unable to depart Australia, including in Maranoa, to continue to work until this health crisis has passed or they are able to return to their home countries.
"Agriculture is an essential sector and it relies on temporary visa holders, many of whom arrive and depart Australia on a seasonal basis. These visa holders fill a critical workforce gap in this sector," Mr Littleproud said.
Mr Littleproud said the Australian Government have put temporary measures in place to allow important work in the agriculture sector to continue and enable workers already here to extend their stay and remain lawfully in Australia until they are able to return to their home countries.
"At the same time it is critical we manage this labour force to support the ongoing health of regional communities and we've acted to include requirements to ensure visa holders follow self-isolation requirements when they move between regions," he said.
"The Australian government stands with industry and will continue to provide support where it is required most to ensure we're still standing strong when we make it through this pandemic.
"We are working closely with State and Territory Governments and industry to ensure appropriate health controls are in place for the ongoing health and wellbeing of our regional communities."
The National Farmers Federation has developed best practice guidance for farmers regarding requirements for accommodation and working arrangements for farm workers (either domestic or migrant) during the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We have asked the Chief Medical Officer to review these guidelines and it is critical that they are then considered by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee," Mr Littleproud said.
Mr Littleproud said the visa extensions are one more way that the Australian Government was giving Maranoa farmers and communities critical support during what has been a very difficult start to the year.
"Sadly, there's been a significant number of Australians who've lost their jobs due to the economic impacts of COVID-19," he said.
"I know there has been strong interest from job ads and I welcome the announcement that we are keeping market testing requirements in place to ensure recruitment of Australians first.
"We are well positioned with the decisions taken by the Australian Government to ensure that our farmers are well supported in Maranoa to continue to work during this time and receive the support they need.
"The visa extensions will ensure that Maranoa businesses have the skills to protect their interests and maximise their profits."