A glossy media campaign to attract seasonal workers, announced today by the Andrews Labor Government, is an insulting step backwards for Victoria’s agriculture sector after months of warnings and negotiations.
Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes has ignored genuine proposals from industry to solve the problem, as a looming gap of more than 20,000 workers is expected to hamper the fruit harvest over the next few months.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said farmers were sick and tired of their work in Victoria’s $15.9 billion agriculture industry being treated as a joke by the Andrews Labor Government.
“Daniel Andrews and Jaclyn Symes are taking us for mugs if they think we’ll be fooled into believing a fancy media campaign is the solution to attract thousands of workers to Victoria,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Andrews Government’s Working for Victoria program has been ineffective at best. How will a media campaign – launched after harvest has started – secure the workers our farmers desperately need right now?
“It’s downright offensive that after months of warnings and negotiations with the industry, this is the best Labor can do.
“Jaclyn Symes is kidding herself if she thinks this is the solution. Labor’s lining farmers up for some hard decisions in coming months when they can’t secure the workers they need and are forced to leave fruit on the trees to rot.”
Other states, like the Northern Territory, have successfully put programs in place that have brought in hundreds of workers.
In September, the Vanuatu Government also wrote to the Andrews Government offering to send up to 2000 workers to Victorian farms.
“Daniel Andrews and Jaclyn Symes have arrogantly fought against a willingness from farmers, industry and the Federal Government to work together to set up a seasonal worker program in Victoria,” Mr Walsh said.
“Jaclyn Symes is proving to be no friend to Victoria’s agriculture sector, failing time and time again to stand up and be the voice Victorian farmers need.
“If Ms Symes can’t solve the issue, she should hand responsibility to someone who can.”