Labor blinks on ag visa as India mooted to join Vietnam on the dance card
Australia's Agriculture Visa may at last have one dance partner now in Vietnam, but India may join them via a new trade deal as the National Farmers Federation hopes will be 10 farm labour partners. Labor's position on the 'ag visa' equates to abandoning agriculture, the federal agriculture minister claimed on Tuesday.
Speaking with Flow on Tuesday, the Nationals member for the federal electorate of Mallee, Anne Webster, carried the analogy presented to her that at one stage Australia looked like the girl at a dance without a dance partner on the Ag Visa, saying:
"It's very exciting. Vietnam signing up will pave the way for the next 'dancing partner', shall we say.
"The India trade agreement signed off is very exciting, they are being invited into the ag visa as a possible 'dance partner' as well."
Hear the full interview with Anne Webster on the Flow podcast player:
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese joined Prime Minister Scott Morrison Tuesday addressing the National Farmers Federation's summit, with the Labor leader saying:
"It’s hard to find workers, from fruit pickers to shearers, to agricultural scientists and wool classers.
"It is clear the Morrison Government’s Ag Visa isn’t working.
"The Nationals promised the Ag Visa would fix everything. But not one worker has arrived. None. Zip. Zero. And the Ag Visa will be capped at 1000 people a year - far short of what’s needed.
"The Pacific Labour schemes will remain the primary program for agriculture workers, but we must acknowledge that there have been problems with the treatment of workers by some farmers. I know these are isolated cases. But bad eggs give the rest of the sector a bad name.
"Labor will work with you to stamp out the exploitation of workers in the sector, and to get the workers you need on farm."
Minister Littleproud responded on Tuesday afternoon:
“When asked what a Labor Government would do about the Ag Visa, Mr Albanese twisted, turned and ended up in a position that no one could make heads or tails of.
“It’s easy to see why: Labor’s political masters, the Australian Workers Union won’t let Mr Albanese support the Ag Visa.
“Not only has the AWU behaved disgracefully by demonising Australian Farmers to the embassies of nations negotiating to join the Ag Visa but now they look like forcing Labor to pull out of an international agreement with Vietnam.
Whilst welcoming Mr Albanese's commitments on improving telecommunications coverage in the bush, National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said:
"The Ag Visa is a key piece of the jigsaw to address the workforce shortages constraining agriculture’s growth, complementing initiatives to grow our domestic workforce.
"Farmers anticipate a rock solid guarantee from Labor to progress the Ag Visa. Unfortunately this guarantee was not forthcoming today. We look forward to Mr Albanese's offer to work with the NFF to fix farmers' worker crisis."
The NFF declared on Tuesday it hoped that all levels of government would work together to secure around 10 international partners for the ag visa.