April 6, 2020
Farm businesses and rural communities should benefit from the Federal Government’s move to extend working holiday visas amid the COVID-19 crisis, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said this week.
The changes allow workers covered by the Pacific Labour Scheme, the Seasonal Worker Program and backpackers to continue to work in these sectors until the COVID-19 crisis has passed.
The temporary visa changes include an exemption from the six-month work limitation with one agriculture employer as well as a further visa extension if it is due to expire in the next six months.
“Agriculture is an essential sector and it relies on temporary visa holders, many of whom arrive and depart Australia on a seasonal basis. These visa holders fill a critical workforce gap in this sector,” Mr Littleproud said.
“That is why the Australian Government is putting temporary measures in place to allow important work in the agriculture sector to continue and enable workers already here to extend their stay and remain lawfully in Australia until they are able to return to their home countries.
“At the same time it is critical we manage this labour force to support the ongoing health of regional communities and we’ve acted to include requirements to ensure visa holders follow self-isolation requirements when they move between regions.”
Backpackers travelling to farms will be forced to self-isolate for 14 days to avoid spreading coronavirus.
The National Farmers Federation has developed best practice guidance for farmers regarding requirements for accommodation and working arrangements for farm workers (either domestic or migrant) during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We have asked the Chief Medical Officer to review these guidelines and it is critical that they are then considered by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee,” Mr Littleproud said.