A significant new agreement and a concerted and cooperative effort toward the creation of a new visa to bring stability to the Australian farming industry has been reached between the Australian Government. This agreement is in exchange for a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom, which would no longer require those backpacking in Australia from the UK to work in regional Australian farms to extend their visa. The result of this trade agreement would be the loss of approximately 10,000 workers per year. As such, the new visa was proposed to offset the expected loss of agricultural workers that will undoubtedly result from the new free trade agreement.
To combat the anticipated losses in the workforce, the visa seeks to protect and keep secure the existing immigration policies between Australia and the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand while simultaneously opening up agriculture work opportunities to others. The overarching goal is to ensure that Australian farmers will have enough workers to bring their produce from their farms to the tables of Australian families and people around the world. An additional long term benefit is to bring workers into the country who wish to come to Australia and remain part of the Australian workforce for the foreseeable future.
In an effort to show the tremendous value in this recent agreement, agricultural minister Mr Littleproud explained the impending change in the following statement, “This is a structural change to the agricultural workforce. It gives our farmers the confidence to plant a crop and know that they’ll be able to get it into the supply chain.”
The farm work visas will be available to those who want to work in the Australian agricultural industry in one of these underemployed areas;
- Meat processing horticulture
- Forestry Sectors
The workers will be welcome to apply for the fam visa from several South East Asian countries and the United Kingdom. This visa is hoped to raise the current workforce from approximately 60% – 70% capacity to being staffed at one-hundred percent working capacity.
While the details of the visa and the requirements for securing it remain in the initial stages, it is expected that the visa opportunity will be available by 30 September 2022. This is welcomed news for the Australian agricultural industry which has been struggling to produce at full capacity since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected that if the Australian government and the governments of the aforementioned countries can work together, within the mandates of health and safety needs, the new program can and will change the face of Australian agriculture.
Cooperation by the states will also be imperative in bringing forth the expected positive outcomes to the agricultural industry. State governments need to be willing to bring new workers onto their farms, into their meat processing plants, fisheries and forestry services. However, all of this will also require a plan put into place by each state government for safe COVID-19 quarantining of new workers and the eventual introduction of these new workers into their communities. Finally, state governments will also need to keep in mind their individual caps on international workers.
While the new visa and the introduction of the free trade agreement with the United Kingdom requires an immense amount of cooperation and diligence by all of the countries and parties involved, it is anticipated that the changes will move forward over the next few years bringing tremendous benefits to all involved.
If you find yourself in need of assistance with this, or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.