vegetablesWA is urgently calling on the Western Australian (WA) Government to finalise an agreement with the Northern Territory Government to quarantine 324 workers from Vanuatu.
These workers are urgently needed to fill critical labour gaps for the supply of fruit and vegetables for WA consumers.
In a media statement, dated October 15, WA Minister for Agriculture Alannah MacTiernan said “the State Government is in discussions with the Northern Territory and Federal Governments on bringing new Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme workers into the country and utilising quarantine facilities in the Northern Territory before being allowed to enter Western Australia”.
vegetablesWA understands that this is yet to be completed and the horticulture industry is unable to progress getting plane loads of workers into the State until there is a formal agreement in place.
This formal agreement must officially state that seasonal workers from Vanuatu, en route to WA, can be quarantined at the Darwin Howard Springs facility, as indicated by the State Government.
vegetablesWA CEO John Shannon said approved employers under the Seasonal Worker Program had completed restart application forms and submitted them to Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE).
“These forms have since been sent to the WA Government for conditional approval but as far as we understand they are still with the WA Government and have not been progressed,” Mr Shannon said.
“The first plane load of workers from Vanuatu is scheduled to arrive in Darwin on December 1.
“Unless an agreement is reached in the next 24 hours, that workers can quarantine in the Howard Springs facility, it is unlikely that we will secure the workers needed in time to address the critical shortages, which are already impacting supply and prices,” he said.
Last month, Minister MacTiernan said that the State Government “is moving to ensure WA growers have another tool at their disposal to fill labour shortages”.
Mr Shannon said the Work and Wander Out Yonder campaign has been a useful piece of the puzzle but more workers will be needed to fill critical labour gaps on vegetable farms.
The WA hard border policy is scheduled to transition to a controlled interstate border arrangement on November 14, 2020.
“The opening of borders is welcome however it will not ensure we have access to the volume of working holiday makers needed,” he said.
“Statistics have shown that working holiday makers have reduced to a third of their February numbers nationally.
“We can’t expect a large influx of working holiday makers once the border opens as they have already left the country.
“We urge Premier Mark McGowan and the Northern Territory Government to work together to form an agreement so that the horticulture industry has access to the labour it needs, and WA residents have access to the fresh produce they deserve.
“We look forward to working with the WA Government to manage this issue.”
John Shannon, vegetablesWA chief executive officer
08 9486 7515 / 0488 111 526
Amber Atkinson, vegetablesWA communications and policy officer
08 9486 7515 / 0438 123 562