By Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard
This last week has confirmed, if it wasn’t already obvious, that Federal politics is squarely in campaign mode ahead of an election most likely in May.
Like most elections, the stakes are high. The next couple of months will prove decisive, firstly in determining a winner and then the direction the nation will take.
It’s about this time in the election cycle that scrutiny increases on the Opposition. Their responsibilities expand, from simply holding the current government to account, to setting out an alternate vision for the future and a set of policies to deliver on it.
Many gaps do however remain, including in their suite of agriculture policies, and particularly their positions on key farm labour policies. These gaps will need to be filled if rural Australia is to make a properly informed vote.
We are for example none the wiser on what the Opposition thinks about the recommendations made in the National Agricultural Workforce Strategy, or the response from the Morrison Government to these recommendations, including the $29 million invested last budget over 4 years in human capital initiatives as part of their AG2030 package.
Importantly, given changes over the past two years that have created a structural shortfall, we’re unsure what plans Labor has to secure a productive and reliable seasonal labour workforce for Australian agriculture.
On this front, key questions for the ALP before election day include whether they endorse a commitment made by Prime Minister Morrison to Pacific Island nations to double the intake of seasonal workers from those countries.
Also, whether they support the new Australian Agriculture Visa. And if they don’t support it, what they’re proposing instead to address the likely shortfall in unskilled labour following changes to the Working Holiday Maker program.
The answers to these questions are critical for the $11 billion Australian horticulture industry.
Between now and the election Growcom is open to working with the Opposition to ensure that should the voting public give them the nod, they’ve got the policies we need to secure the future of the sector.