02 September 2021

Statements by Senators

[by video link] As another week comes and goes, so continues the shambolic rollout of the government’s re-announced agriculture visa.

There have been more backflips by the government on an ag visa then we saw at the recent Olympics.

The visa was first promised in 2018, but only the prospect of an impending election was enough to stir the sleepy Nationals from their slumber; they threatened to blow up the coalition unless the Prime Minister finally made good on his promise from some years ago to Australian farmers.

It’s like most things with this government: big on announcements but short on details.

Launched with little fanfare and after no consultation, the ag visa is raising concerns that it could undermine Pacific island worker schemes as the Commonwealth tries to handball their failures on quarantine to the states.

Even the government’s own National Agriculture Labour Advisory Committee rejects calls for a dedicated ag visa, acknowledging that the industry’s overreliance on cheap migrant labour is bad for productivity and unsustainable.

What we’ve got is a Nationals media release boastfully proclaiming that the visa will be in place no later than 30 September this year, with full implementation in three years. One is left to wonder: what is the difference between the terms ‘in place’ and ‘full implementation’?

In another media release with the Nationals, the foreign affairs minister stated, ‘Full conditions will be developed and implemented over the next three years as the visa is operationalised.’ I don’t seem to understand what this term is used for and whether it is a term commonly used in pubs right around Australia, where farmers are still struggling with labour shortages.

The impression I do get is that the Coalition have very little idea how this ag visa is going to work and that they’re going to spend the next three years making it up on the run while Australians pay the price for their mistakes.