29 August 2020

Dear Editor

Agriculture is an essential service.

Recent state border restrictions have caused challenges for many regional communities, including our farmers who need workers to harvest their produce and have free movement across state lines in order to keep their businesses running. But, I note with dismay that instead of working together, National MPs are more interested in talking about themselves and blaming others than supporting local communities.

The border restrictions affecting Victorian farmers have been made by three Coalition governments; New South Wales, South Australia and the Commonwealth. Yet many weeks since this issue first arose these three governments have been unable to alleviate the anguish and frustration caused by their decisions.

A pragmatic solution to allow permitted workers to cross state borders should have been sorted out by the Nationals and Liberals long ago. The Federal Government needs to show leadership and common sense.

Federal Agriculture Minister and Nationals MP, David Littleproud, recently announced a ‘breakthrough’ to the agricultural labour workforce issue by developing a new code to fix this problem but it’s going to take a couple of weeks. And still no details on how the code would operate.

The agriculture sector has faced workforce challenges for a number of years, and the Nationals have known about it as evidenced by its Agriculture Workforce Strategy. The COVID crisis has merely exacerbated labour shortfalls because of travel restrictions.

Cross-border communities deserve better.

Yours sincerely

Senator Raff Ciccone
Federal Labor Senator for Victoria

This letter to the editor has been published by the Sunraysia Daily The Horsham Times, the Ararat Advocate, the Pyrenees Advocate, the Naracoorte Community News and the Cobram Courier.