Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes struggled to answer basic questions on critical issues affecting Victorian farmers at Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) hearings today.
The Minister was grilled for answers on why our farmers still can’t get seasonal workers on-farm and on the Andrews Labor Government’s policy to ban Victoria’s native timber industry by 2030.
Victoria is the only state in Australia not to have a seasonal worker quarantine framework, despite industry calls for Daniel Andrews to take up the Federal Government’s offer to streamline workers getting into the country.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh slammed the Minister’s disheartening lack of solutions.
“Agriculture is the lifeblood of the Victorian economy and worth $15.9 billion to our state,” Mr Walsh said.
“But without strong leadership, today’s challenges will become worsening problems and our farmers will miss out on new opportunities to become more productive and profitable.
“The Andrews Labor Government has known about the seasonal worker shortage since March and all other states have solutions in place but today the Minister still couldn’t say when Victoria will catch up.
“Produce will be left on the trees to rot while Jaclyn Symes continues to throw around empty promises of solutions ‘coming soon’.”
At PAEC hearings, Ms Symes also admitted that although the Government knows plantation trees planted today won’t be harvest quality by 2030, it has no plan to fill the ongoing demand for local native timber.
“Labor’s ideological ban on the native timber industry is already costing hundreds of jobs, with tens of thousands more to go if this policy isn’t reversed,” Mr Walsh said.
“Our clean, green, sustainably harvested Victorian timber is in high demand, but Labor’s short-sighted ideological ban will send that business to overseas suppliers without the same stringent environmental standards in place.
“Labor’s policies are chipping away at the heart of our critical agriculture industries, but Jaclyn Symes appears powerless to stand up to her colleagues’ Melbourne-centric agendas.”