David Littleproud says Australia’s regional labour shortage has grown so dire, people are being forced to make “heart-wrenching” decisions.
The Nationals leader on Tuesday outlined some of the proposals he will take to the Albanese government’s jobs and skills summit next month, which his party says could alleviate the problem.
“I even heard yesterday from a farmer who’s walked away from their childhood property; the one in which they were actually born on, because they simply cannot get the labour,” Mr Littleproud told the ABC from Carnarvon in regional Western Australia.
“They’ve had to lease it out and go and get a job elsewhere, which is just heart-wrenching, when the only thing that’s holding them back is able bodies.”
Mr Littleproud continued with his push to resurrect the canned agriculture visa and reaffirmed his support for another regional visa category to encourage skilled migrants to move to the bush.
He said the latest job vacancies figures show there were more than 172,000 positions which needed to be filled in the farming and food processing sectors.
Labor before the election promised to effectively scrap the Coalition government’s agriculture visa and replace it with a new agriculture stream within the existing Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.
Labor said no workers had been brought in under the agriculture visa scheme and unions warned it would foster exploitation.
Mr Littleproud said the Albanese government’s plan would still leave a massive shortfall of workers.
“We think a pragmatic solution on top of that is not just the agriculture (visa), but to have a skilled regional visa,” he said.
“(We need to) incentivise people to come and live in regions, whether that be a pharmacist, whether that be a mechanic or an engineer on top of the (agriculture) workers and give all of them a pathway to permanent residency.”
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles earlier this month didn’t rule out the creation of another dedicated regional visa category.
He said the government would canvass a wide range of issues relating to migration before the jobs summit, which will be held over the first two days of September.
“What we are determined to do is look at the role that skilled migration can play in rebuilding the Australian economy,” he told ABC Radio.
“And by rebuilding, I mean not just focusing on the crises that we need to address right now, but having a clearer, longer-term vision of what our labour market will look like and the role of skilled migration in that.”
The jobs summit will bring together about 100 representatives from business, the public sector and the union movement to try to find common ground on enterprise bargaining, migration and other issues.
Originally published as Nationals continue push for regional visas ahead of jobs summit
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