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Webster welcomes farm labour visa progress

National Party MP Dr Anne Webster is encouraged by the recent news that the Morrison government is working with Indonesia for a historic bilateral agreement with Australia for the newly announced agriculture visa.

Speaking with Flow on Friday, Webster said securing the agriculture visa deal with Indonesia was “fantastic news” and stressed the importance of bolstering critical farm workforce shortages in Australia.

“My understanding is that four countries have entered into those talks and the latest is Indonesia which is fantastic news and what we need is of course is quarantine measures that allow workers to come in.”
“We’ve seen in NSW that Australians who are coming back don’t need to quarantine anymore if they’re double-vaxed...that provides so much hope for everyone I think that we can just get on and meet the needs of our workforce, which is huge right now.”

Webster’s comments come on the same day of the first meeting of the 'East Coast Agricultural Taskforce' convened by NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall. Friday's meeting coincides with participants AgForce, NSW Farmers, the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) saying they want to work with the National Farmers Federation (NFF) joining forces to tackle the east coast’s harvest worker crisis.

The three peak state farming groups want to pursue cost-effective solutions that would ensure farms dealing with worker shortages would be able to access the thousands of staff needed from November.

The groups pointed out in a statement that there are high COVID-19 vaccination rates in the Pacific Islands, and low incidences of coronavirus, meaning a large number of workers could be accessed by Australia’s farming industry and quarantine settings for international agriculture workers should be reassessed.

Earlier this week the NSW Farmers hit out at Prime Minister Scott Morrison's veto of the NSW Premier's call to ease quarantine requirements for sufficiently vaccinated farm workers.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said on Thursday that the looming agreement highlighted tremendous progress made by the agriculture industry after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is history in the making and Australians can be very proud that Indonesia would like to be part of our Visa Scheme.”
“As one of our closest neighbours and trading partners, I am very pleased that Indonesia is eager to strengthen our relationship even further.”
“Farmers and all those involved in growing our ag industries can be encouraged by this announcement.”

The federal Nationals' deputy leader claimed the Ag Visa was the biggest structural reform to the agricultural workforce ever seen:

“The Visa will provide a long-term, reliable workforce for our critical industries while solving one of regional Australia’s greatest challenges in recent history.”
“Australian farmers should also be encouraged by the fact more than 50,000 workers are available under our Pacific mobility programs.”

Minister Littleproud believed New South Wales' move to quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated workers from 1 November 2021 was of great assistance:

“I would encourage all other states to follow suit. We have committed to bringing in an additional 12,500 workers by March 2022 and I would call on all states to help fast-track quarantine arrangements for Pacific workers before the end of the year.”