Capricornia farms benefit from working VISA changes
CAPRICORNIA farm businesses and communities will benefit from an announcement made this week by the Australian Government to extend working holiday maker and other visas amid the COVID-19 crisis.
According to Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, the visa changes would allow Pacific seasonal workers, working holiday makers and a range of other visa holders who were unable to depart Australia, to continue to work in Capricornia until either the health crisis passed or they were able to return to their home countries.
Ms Landry said the visa extensions were one more way that the Australian Government was giving Capricornia farmers and communities critical support during what had been a very difficult start to the year.
Mr Littleproud said agriculture was an essential sector which relied 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. That is why the Australian Government is putting 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," Mr Littleproud said.
"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.
"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."
He said they were working closely with state and territory governments and industry to ensure appropriate health controls were in place for the ongoing health and wellbeing of 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.
Ms Landry lamented the significant number of Australians who had lost their jobs due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, but said her government was doing everything it could to ensure that it would not be the case in Capricornia.
"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," Ms Landry said.
"I have also written to the CEOs of Aldi Australia, BHP, Commonwealth Bank, Coles and Telstra to ensure Central Queenslanders are considered when applying for jobs with their organisations during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The visa extensions will ensure that Capricornia businesses have the skills to protect their interests and maximise their profits."