House debates

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Statements by Members

Horticulture Industry

1:39 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Hear, hear! I'll echo those sentiments of the member for Braddon.

The COVID-19 pandemic and international travel restrictions have highlighted the overreliance of Australian horticulture on overseas workers. Usually, eight in 10 workers in this sector are on short-term visas, a mix of backpacker and seasonal worker visas—but not this year. Australian horticulture will be 26,000 workers short over the next six months, the key picking season for our fruits and vegetables, and growers are predicting devastation.

In Tasmania, around 7,000 fruit picking and harvest jobs have been advertised on the Harvest Trail website since July. Less than 200 of them have so far been filled. The government's gap year idea to encourage young Australians to spend a summer on farms is laudable, but I doubt that it will fill the huge gap. Fruit Growers Tasmania has launched 'Rescue the Season', which aims to raise $1.8 million in order to transport 1,000 workers to and from farms. The reasons for severe labour supply problems in Australian horticulture are longstanding and well known. There is report after report, and recommendation after recommendation. What is needed is action and commitment from government to fix the known issues. Improving wages, conditions and job security are key, but these are mid- to long-term issues and we have a crisis right now. This year's fruit and vegetable picking season is already here and we need people on farm right now. The government must do more.