House debates

Monday, 30 November 2020

Statements by Members

Mallee Electorate: Horticulture Workforce

4:16 pm

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The closure of Australia's international border has amplified pre-existing workforce challenges in the horticultural industry in my electorate of Mallee. The industry faces a shortfall of thousands of workers until international labour can once again be employed. Although worsened by COVID-19, these challenges are not new. The industry is heavily reliant on overseas workers because low-skilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour supplies have always been a challenge for our region and our industries. Last week, I convened a webinar for horticultural producers and contractors in my electorate to discuss current visa options and the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement. The webinar was joined by representatives from the Department of Home Affairs. Those present have decades worth of experience in horticulture and associated labour hire industries. There was clear frustration and they expressed confusion with current visa processes. Nathan Falvo suggested that decentralising the department responsible could be worth considering. I agreed. As part of the agenda of decentralisation, I am eager to establish a Home Affairs hub in Mildura—why not—to service the complex workforce needs of business in the region and support the thousands of migrant workers that come to work on our farms. A Home Affairs hub would be an important step towards improving a government mechanism to manage workforce shortages and red tape complexities. (Time expired)