MORE than 7,000 seasonal domestic workers have been lured into the agricultural sector thanks to government incentives worth $20 million, Senate estimates have revealed.
The AgMove program was launched in late 2020, offering Australians $2,000 in relocation costs after two weeks of seasonal work and an additional $4,000 after four weeks of work, with lower amounts available to temporary visa holders.
So far, a total of 7,146 people have taken part in the program, which will run until the end of June, with an average of $1,600 claimed.
Previous attempts to attract domestic workers were abandoned after attracting a few hundred people. AusVeg spokesperson Tyson Cattle said that although the industry is struggling with labor shortages, the adoption of AgMove was “definitely a positive sign”.
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve tried everything and this was one of the first adoptions, so it’s good to see some decent numbers,” Mr Cattle said.
“It has proven to have some success and has certainly helped some producers through this difficult time. »
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the scheme was a great way to experience Australia, particularly for gap year students, while providing the experience of a lifetime and the chance to earn big silver.
“The government has worked hard to attract workers to bring agricultural produce from the farm to your plate,” Mr Littleproud said.
Despite the program’s success, the horticulture industry does not see it as a long-term solution.
“We would like to explore more data and understand how many continue to pursue a career in agriculture after their six weeks are up,” Mr Tyson said.
“But as an industry, we’re not interested in short-term incentives – they’re good for meeting a need, but we need a more reliable and stable workforce.”
The government has touted its agricultural visas as a long-term solution, the rollout of which was tied in the Senate estimates.
Asked about the status of agricultural visa negotiations, Senator Bridget McKenzie told Labor senators to “tell the AWU to shut their traps”.