Budget makes welcome investment in labor mobility program


The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) welcomes the federal government’s budget, which helps more employers hire workers through the Pacific Australia Labor Mobility (PALM) scheme, tackles skills shortages and seeks to improve the availability of accommodation.

“Labour and skills shortages, as well as lack of housing in regional communities, are some of the biggest obstacles facing our industry. Although much more needs to be done, the government budget is a good first step towards addressing these issues through improvements to the PALM program, more free training and education positions for the agricultural sector and a plan to build one million new homes across Australia. said Claire McClelland, CEO of AFPA.

A key announcement for the fresh produce industry is the government’s series of commitments to further expand and improve the PALM scheme. Measures include reimbursement of travel costs for workers that cannot be recovered by the employer through no fault of their own and increased resources to expand the PALM program and intensify actions against unscrupulous operators who encourage PALM workers. to withdraw in violation of their visa conditions.

“The Government’s measure to effectively cover workers’ flight costs will help approved employers to invest and recruit more under the scheme. This commitment makes sense as it helps employers manage the risks associated with upfront costs while avoiding unnecessary red tape and makes recruiting under the PALM program more attractive to horticultural businesses,” said McClelland. The government has also committed additional resources for the PALM program to increase the number of PALM workers participating in the program to 35,000 by June 2023.

This comes with resources to take further action against unscrupulous operators who encourage workers to violate the terms of their visas. “AFPA members currently employ 5,700 PALM workers, or one-third of PALM workers engaged in the horticultural sector. The increase in resources to support more PALM workers engaging in the program recognizes how critical the PALM program is to our industry.” “AFPA members strongly support the standards and worker welfare obligations included in the PALM program. Further support to ensure these standards are enforced and workers are protected and warmly welcomed by the horticulture industry,” said Ms McClelland.

AFPA also welcomes increased investment in skills and training through 480,000 free TAFE places, as well as the National Housing Agreement to increase the housing stock, and calls on the government to allocate to agriculture and regional authorities a fair share of funding. – access to suitable housing and skills in the technical and professional trades of fresh produce are essential for the growth of the industry.

“Australian fruit and vegetable growers are going through some of the toughest operating conditions in recent history – extreme weather, rising input costs, labor and skill shortages, and a range of Other challenges all contribute to the pressure on our producers. There is no quick fix, but the measures contained in this budget should combine to alleviate some of the pressure on the industry,” said Ms. McClelland.

For more information:
AUSVEG
www.ausveg.com.au

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