Agriculture Minister David Littleproud

November 11, 2021

Agriculture Minister and Member for Maranoa David Littleproud has defended the Federal Government’s new Ag Visa program after criticism from the Labor Party.

He said statements on Thursday by ALP MPs were “clearly devised and written by the Australian Union movement”.

He said the relentless “generalisation and demonisation” of Australian farmers as exploiters of foreign workers was disgraceful.

He said while the industry acknowledges there was “a very small cohort that has done wrong”, the vast majority of farmers were doing the right thing.

“Labour hire companies are also part of this problem,” Minister Littleproud said.

“The Federal Government is working with State and Territory government industrial relations ministers to harmonise legislation that will tighten the regulation of labour hire companies.

“A Bill increasing penalties for foreign worker exploitation will enter Federal Parliament this year.”

Minister Littleproud said he would have thought that Labor and the unions would know any foreign worker under the Pacific schemes or the Ag Visa would enjoy the same working conditions and protections that Australians enjoy.

“Labor also made misleading statements about a pathway to permanent residency under the Ag Visa,” he said.

“It was made clear and publicly from the outset, that in the agreement between the Nationals and the Liberals, there must be a pathway to permanent residency which the Prime Minister has reaffirmed.

“Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her department are currently in bilateral discussions with four countries signing up to the Ag Visa but the sensationalism that Labor and the unions have created has delayed progress.

“It was disappointing that Labor and the unions would sabotage this visa by destroying Australia and Australian farmers’ reputation in the process.

“The fact remains despite claims by Labor and the unions, Australians don’t want to do this work.

“With over $60m available in funding and incentives to encourage workers, less than 6000 have taken it up.

“For Labor and the unions to suggest that the Ag Visa will undermine the Pacific programs is nonsense.

“There are 30,000 jobs in horticulture alone required by February with thousands more required in other agricultural industries and the Ag Visa brings in skilled and semi-skilled workers which Pacific workers don’t always have.”

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