The Queensland government has been slammed for flying in overseas workers to pick fruit instead of letting unemployed Australians come north to do it.
Up to 20,000 peak period picker and labour jobs are currently available across the state, with the National Farmers Federation pleading for those who are out of work to come and give fruit picking a go.
It could mean that crops will be lost if there aren’t enough people to pick them during the season.
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But, the federal minister for agriculture David Littleproud has told The Today Show that this is something they tried to avoid, with the ‘AG workers code’.
He says all the states except for Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania have signed up for it.
“This is about the free movement of labour between states in a Covid safe way, and what we’re saying is ‘let’s allow farmers and AG workers to move’.
“And then there’s a third cohort that the states want to classify as seasonal workers.
“And then there’s sometimes backpackers that have been in the country sometime, and even Australians that are doing it.
“But the challenge we’ve got is that when one state doesn’t sign up, it means that if you’re picking fruit in Griffith at the moment and you want to go to Bowen to pick mangos, you’ll get pulled up at Stanthorpe and you’ll get put in a motel for about $2,800 worth of cost,” Minister Littleproud said.
He’s also criticised Queensland in particular for flying in workers from the Pacific, and allowing them to quarantine on site.
“The Queensland government are currently flying in overseas workers from the Pacific, and letting them isolate on farm and work on farm.
“It’s just not common sense.
“We’re incentivising Australians with up to $6,000 in reimbursement of travel costs, to get them off the couch to have a crack, and we’ve got states holding us up,” Minister Littleproud said.