The Liberal Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell has exposed the Andrews Labor Government’s failure to address the massive labour shortage expected for this years’ fruit harvest season.
In a previous sitting of Parliament, Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes trumpeted an Andrews Labor Government campaign to recruit the harvest labour workforce needed to pick this season’s valuable produce.
In question time in State Parliament this week, Ms Lovell sought an update from Ms Symes on the total number of workers recruited by the Government to fill the 26,000 strong workforce needed to pick this year’s harvest. In reply, Ms Symes admitted the Andrews Labor Government has only been able to attract just 889 harvest labour workers through the Work for Victoria program.
In a follow up question, Ms Lovell outlined that the Federal Government’s Pacific Islander Workers Scheme is providing seasonal workers to fruit and vegetable growers around Australia at a cost of $2,000 per worker. However, due to the lack of quarantine facilities in Victoria, industry experts predict Victorian horticulturists will pay up to $8,000 per worker to meet quarantine and transit costs from interstate to their farms.
In her question, Ms Lovell sought a commitment from Ms Symes that the Andrews Labor Government would provide financial assistance to subsidise this cost to Victorian growers of hiring workers quarantining interstate as well as exploring options for a quarantine facility for workers in regional Victoria.
In response, Ms Symes refused to acknowledge the prohibitive costs facing local growers to secure the workforce to harvest their produce, proving Labor has no answers to address this the current harvest labour shortage.
Comments attributable to Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell:
“Jaclyn Symes has dropped the ball and has failed to ensure Victorian growers have the labour force needed to meet the requirements for the 2020/21 harvest season.
“The Minister needs to take immediate action to subsidise the cost burden faced by growers by signing up to the Pacific Islander Workers Scheme and explore options for a quarantine facility in regional Victoria to safeguard the harvesting of our precious fruit and vegetables.”
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