Good morning Vietnam - Australia finds an ag visa partner at last
Updated: Mar 29
Vietnam has signed a memorandum of understanding with Australia over its agriculture visa program, which provides labour supply across primary industries.
A memorandum of understanding with Vietnam to join Australia's agricultural visa program will "open the flood gates" for the scheme, the agriculture minister says.
There is considerable demand for workers at the moment with about a 20,000-person shortfall in the horticulture sector before including fisheries and forestry, David Littleproud said:
"Now that we've got Vietnam signed up, it really opens up the floodgates for the system to be opened up and to be able to begin complementing those Pacific schemes," he said.
"The sponsored visa program will target skilled, semi-skilled and low-skilled employees across a range of agriculture sectors, including horticulture, dairy, wool, grains, fisheries and forestry.
"This is the biggest structural change because this isn't just about unskilled workers, this is about skilled and semi-skilled as well and at some point getting a pathway to permanent residency.
"So we're trying to get people to come back to the regions. This is the next generation of migrants we're looking to come to Australia."
In a statement on Monday, Mr Littleproud took a swipe at opponents to the scheme:
“The Ag Visa has been an article of faith for the Nationals and despite efforts by the AWU and the Labor Party to sabotage the establishment of the Visa, the Nationals never gave up and pushed our Coalition partners to finalise the visa.”
The announcement comes after Nationals MP for Mallee in horticulture-strong north western Victoria, Anne Webster, and the Victorian Farmers Federation criticised the slow progress towards an ag visa deal.
Hear VFF president Emma Germano's concerns about the ag visa and other concerns for the federal budget, such as fuel security, in this pre-budget interview:
The National Farmers Federation's Chief Executive Tony Mahar said the development was hugely positive news for the agriculture sector.
"The partnership with Vietnam signals the practical beginning of the Ag Visa, an initiative led by the NFF.
"I congratulate Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, on her hard work in seeing Australia’s already close ties with Vietnam strengthened through this agreement.
"The visa would not have got to this point without Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and his dogged commitment to seeing it become a reality."
AUSVEG CEO Michael Coote said on Monday:
“The Ag Visa was never intended to be a short-term solution to issues that stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a long-term structural change for the industry to access a more efficient and effective workforce and reduce its reliance on working holiday makers.”
The implementation phase starts immediately with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade fostering discussions between approved employers and labour-hire companies to get contracts underway, Mr Littleproud added:
"We've already done a lot of legwork with being able to get them contracts and then those discussions with Vietnam and bringing them over.
"You will see some (arrivals) as soon as those contracts are signed and we can get people comfortable in getting over here. This is something that we're at the final stages of."
The scheme will provide a "sustainable, long-term contribution to Australia's labour supply", Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.
"Australia and Vietnam share a strong and optimistic agenda in our relationship.
"We are bound by warm ties of friendship and family that extend across every level of community, government and business. This step reflects what is possible when we work together."
Negotiations are continuing with a small number of southeast Asian nations as the department says a deal with Indonesia is expected to be finalised shortly.
Australia and Indonesia signed a memorandum on agriculture cooperation in January, promising to facilitate "mutually beneficial trade".