With approximately 271,000 people employed in Australian agriculture, WAFarmers President Tony York said the industry’s most valuable resource – people – must be strong, supported and encouraged to move the sector in a positive direction.
“People are the most valuable resource in Australia’s agricultural sector – without them, the industry would cease to exist,” Mr York said.
“To this end, it is imperative that we develop a better understanding of opportunities in the sector to build a strong workforce and attract the brightest and best.
“We call on the incoming Federal Government to safeguard our best resource by removing the proposed backpacker tax, supporting the establishment of a separate Agricultural Visa for overseas workers, committing to further investment in the development of industry-specific programs, and streamlining existing structure to encourage best practice.”
Mr York said that in the time since the backpacker tax was proposed by the Commonwealth Government, there had been a united industry front strongly against the proposal, with WAFarmers leading the charge from the Western Australian agricultural sector.
“While WAFarmers recently applauded the announcement to delay the tax until 1 January 2017, following a multi-department Federal Government review, we will continue to fight for the removal of the backpacker tax in its entirety to safeguard the agricultural and tourism industries in rural and regional Australia,” Mr York said.
“To support this further, we strongly believe that a separate Agricultural Visa is required for overseas workers, to facilitate the development of a more robust pool of applicants for farm work and to streamline processes for both applicants and employers.
“Though there is provision in 457 and 417 visas to employ agricultural workers, this can sometimes be difficult due to specific application criteria or restrictions.
“A visa specific to agriculture would ensure that businesses needs are more closely met, thus developing more efficient and effective businesses.”
Mr York said there was currently considerable duplication of agricultural education programs, and that more measured investment in these services would provide greater opportunities for both existing local workers and prospective employees in the sector.
“As the only pillar of the Australian economy which has the potential to double by 2030, we need to attract and retain a strong workforce, so we call on government to listen and act upon our concerns, and those of the state farming organisations and the National Farmers Federation,” he said.
All media requests must be directed to WAFarmers Marketing and Events Manager Megan MacNeill on (08) 9486 2100 or [email protected].