LISA CHESTERS MP SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR WORKPLACE RELATIONS
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR RURAL & REGIONAL AUSTRALIA
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BENDIGO
JUSTINE KEAY MP MEMBER FOR BRADDON
SHANE BROAD MP
TASMANIAN SHADOW MINISTER FOR PRIMARY INDUSTRIES
Tasmania’s horticulture industry is facing a looming crisis in obtaining seasonal labour to harvest late summer and autumn produce with the Liberal/Greens Party backpacker tax debacle being a key contributing factor.
Today Labor convened an industry stakeholder forum in Devonport and heard genuine concern from fruit growers that there will not be enough labour to harvest autumn product.
While the industry has just managed with the summer harvest, a much larger workforce is required for the late summer and autumn harvests as apples and pears come on line.
A combination of issues highlighted by the backpacker tax and changes to the 88 day second visa requirements are now seeing local farmers facing the prospect of fruit falling to the ground because they are unable to secure enough labour.
Exploitation by unscrupulous labour hire bosses, strip picking versus select picking and inconsistent piece rates are some of the other factors raised as barriers to local farmers being able to secure a stable labour force at today’s industry stakeholders forum.
Some use labour hire, others Gumtree and others word of mouth. Without a consistent method of securing labour, farmers are struggling to harvest this season.
The forum also heard a lack of support from regional job service providers was another issue with examples of providers “not getting out of their cars” to speak to local farmers.
The issue is complex and simplistic solutions previously offered by Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz that unemployed people should just pick fruit won’t cut it.
In other words it’s just a mess created by a series of policy failures by the Liberals. The industry knows that and is calling upon all levels of government to come together and work collectively to find a solution.
Labor will always prioritise locals for local jobs, however, in some industries like horticulture there is a need for seasonal workers to help with harvest.
Calls to the former Federal Member for Braddon for the Commonwealth Department of Employment to gather empirical data on what the industry constraints are, also fell on deaf ears.
While the Hodgman and Turnbull Liberal Government’s choose to bury their heads in the sand and pretend all is okay, State and Federal Labor are ready to work with the sector to start developing a policy solution.
Today’s forum was the first step in that process and Tasmanian producers can be assured Labor will not ignore them, unlike the Hodgman and Turnbull Governments who have presided over this mess.
MEDIA CONTACT: PAUL SEIDL (CHESTERS) – 0431 264 705
JOHN DOWLING (KEAY) - 0417 575 148
CHRIS TAYLOR (BROAD) 0408 975 225