Growcom as the peak body representing the horticulture sector in Queensland has today called on all farm labour advocates to focus on the shared goals of improved worker wellbeing and productivity as negotiations continue around the proposed Australian Agriculture Visa.

This request for a more constructive discussion comes as the Australian Workers’ Union calls for the proposed Ag Visa to be scrapped entirely, and has reportedly lobbied South East Asian nations to not sign up to the Visa. 

Growcom Chief Executive Officer Stephen Barnard has said recent AWU advocacy appears more geared to inflict political damage ahead of an election and not focused on making a genuine contribution to improving worker wellbeing. 

“The AWU scorched earth approach to advocacy, not just with the Australian Agriculture Visa but farm labour issues more broadly, serves no one except their own narrow self-interest of occupying space in the media,” said Mr Barnard. 

“Meanwhile everyone else is getting on with the important business of designing a visa program that assures the wellbeing of workers, while also securing long term access to reliable and productive seasonal labour so that our farmers can continue to put food into the nation’s grocery aisles.

“You might have thought that at another time, and possibly under different leadership that the AWU would have embraced the Ag Visa as an opportunity to help shift the reliance of industry away from backpackers and toward a cohort entitled to even better conditions. 

“At this point we won’t hold our breath for a change in tack, but will welcome them back to the table when they’re ready.”

Growcom rejects harmful, unproductive and misleading claims by the AWU and others that abuse of workers in Australian horticulture is rampant or widespread and that the entire industry is “rotten”.