ASEAN nation citizens to be offered farm work visas

Update: 17 June 2021

A new farm worker visas scheme to be rolled out by September could see citizens of ten south-east Asian nations offered the opportunity to work in Australia’s agricultural industries. 

The scheme is aimed at helping Australian farmers harvest crops and pick fruit in the face of chronic labour shortages.

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has promised to deliver a new visas within three months.

The move comes after a new free trade deal with the UK saw the scrapping of a requirement for British backpackers to work on farms to be able to extend their working holidays. UK backpackers amount to a 10,000-strong annual workforce. 

The visas will be offered to citizens of Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei, Myanmar, Philippines, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia.

National Party Deputy Leader David Littleproud told media: "I have an undertaking from the Prime Minister as a condition of my support, and the National Party's support for this free trade agreement, to have it up and going before the end of the year".

"The Prime Minister himself has made a promise to the [National Farmers Federation] in 2019, that said we would work to an ag visa, so we are living up to our commitment,” he said.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said the government had long promised an agriculture visa but was yet to deliver it.

"We've had these promises for years now. It's time to deliver," she told the ABC.

Migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia has welcomed new agricultural work visas that will be offered to residents from ten South-East Asian countries.

AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said the news visas were an “opportunity to reset the temporary visas system as well as provide additional pathways for permanent residence for refugees and displaced persons from some of the ten countries”.

“The new visas are welcome and they are a great opportunity to perhaps provide additional resettlement opportunities for people from places such as Myanmar and Indonesia, who have fled conflict or persecution,” Ms Scarth said.

AMES Australia Skilled Migration Specialist Thanushki Kankanange said the scheme was also an opportunity to do more to stamp out the exploitation of workers on temporary visas.

“This could be a good point to put in place measure to stop exploitation among temporary workers,” Ms Kankanange said.

“We also have in Australia, a sophisticated settlement services sector that could utilised to make the scheme work at an optimal level,” she said.


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