Visa extensions for pickers welcomed
A MOVE to extend working holiday maker and other visas during the COVID-19 crisis has been welcomed by Burnett growers and pickers.
The Federal Government announced last week the visa changes would allow Pacific seasonal workers, working holiday makers, and other visa holders to continue their farm work in Australia during this health crisis.
Gayndah and District Fruitgrowers Association secretary Judy Shepherd said these extensions have been received well by both farmers and seasonal workers.
"That has been a real worry for a lot of the pickers as it takes the pressure off them to get their 88 days," Mrs Shepherd said.
"We welcome things such as this, as now they can extend their visas automatically."
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud and Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said these extensions apply to rural workers who are unable to depart Australia and return to their home country.
"Agriculture is an essential sector and it relies on temporary visa holders, many of whom arrive and depart Australia on a season basis," Minister Littleproud said.
"These visa holders fill a critical workforce gap in this sector."
Minister Littleproud said they're currently managing the labour force to support the ongoing health of regional communities, including requirements to ensure visa holders follow self isolation requirements when they move between regions.
"The Australian government stands with industry and will continue to provide support where it is required most to ensure we're still standing strong when we make it through this pandemic."
Mr O'Dowd said the visa extensions were one more way the Australian Government were giving back to farmers and communities in the federal electorate of Flynn, during what has been a difficult start to the year.
"Sadly, there's been a significant number of Australians who've lost their jobs due the economic impacts of COVID-19, but the Australian government is ensuring that it will not be the case for Flynn," Mr O'Dowd said.
"The visa extensions will ensure that Flynn businesses have the skills to protect their interests and maximise their profits."
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said these bridging visas need to be approved as soon as possible, since the Queensland Citrus harvest is already underway.
"Our growers are ready to harvest thousands of tonnes of fresh Australian citrus for Australian consumers, and immediate access to these visa extensions is crucial," Mr Hancock said.
"We are pleased the government has made this decision, and our growers will prioritise all health and safety requirements related to the management of COVID-19".