Farmers disappointed as backroom deal pushes Closing Loopholes Bill through

14 February 2024

The National Farmers’ Federation has flagged the rushed backroom deals that will allow the industrial relations reforms through today, will leave farmers to deal with legislation fraught with problems.

NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar said the suite of measures would deliver more uncertainty for farmers, more power for union bosses, and a less dynamic economy for workers.

“The Government’s form in scrabbling together last-minute backroom deals without proper debate and scrutiny just paves the way for poor legislation,” Mr Mahar said.

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“We were already worried about how rushed this legislation is and farmers’ concerns simply haven’t been listened to.”

Mr Mahar said the NFF was still yet to hear a coherent justification for some of these changes the Government was pushing through.

“Expanding the right of entry powers is a straight-up union power grab. There’s no reason to grant them more power to traipse onto farms unannounced. These are people's homes and there are important safety and biosecurity considerations.

“Farming is incredibly unique in terms of the seasonal volatility, remoteness and prevalence of family-run operations that impact our workforce needs. Policymakers must hear directly from farmers before upending established IR rules.”

Mr Mahar also pointed to changes to the definition of casual employment that would disincentivise job creation in the farm sector.

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“The current system is clear and balanced. Everyone knows what they’re signing up for and whether an arrangement is casual or permanent. Take that clarity away and it’s one more thing that will discourage a farmer from creating a new role.

“This bill is all about old-fashioned rigidity that’s out of step with a modern, dynamic economy. It ensures that the union bosses rule the roost, making Australia a tougher place to create a job. None of that benefits Australians in the long run,” Mr Mahar said.