Labour crisis remains one year after jobs and skill summit say Nats

01 September 2023

The skills shortage in regional Australia and agriculture 12 months on from the Jobs and Skills Summit remains in crisis, pushing cost-of-living pressures higher.

Leader of The Nationals and Member for Maranoa David Littleproud said despite The Nationals taking a constructive role to represent regional Australia at Labor’s Jobs and Skills Summit one year ago, workforce shortages in the agriculture sector continued to drive up food prices and regional Australia still had a skills crisis. “The Nationals attended Labor’s Jobs and Skills Summit, because we wanted to work constructively with the government and find practical solutions like reinstating the Agriculture Visa, simplifying the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme, looking at a Regional Skills Visa and allowing pensioners and veterans to work more without impacting their payments,” Mr Littleproud said.

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“However, Labor is only partially delivered, on pensioners and veterans working more hours. “Not only have they ignored The Nationals’ suggestions, they have made things worse with changes to the PALM scheme. “Labor has hindered agriculture by effectively taking away the tools it needs to grow our nation’s food and fibre. Agriculture has gone backward because it’s harder for farmers to find the workers they need. “As a result, families are struggling to pay for groceries but the increased bills are a Labor-made crisis.”

Australia’s top peak food industry bodies warned that agriculture requires an additional 172,000 workers to get food from paddock to port or plate, yet only around 16,000 have come in since Labor got into office, Mr Littleproud said. “The PALM Scheme is unworkable for agriculture because it will require farmers to offer a minimum of 30 hours per week, even though agricultural work is seasonal work and weather dependent. “Labor does not understand the agriculture sector, while continuing to ignore the pleas from other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to send workers to Australia under the Agriculture Visa.”

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Since the Jobs and Skills Summit, Consumer Price Index figures also show food and non-alcoholic beverages have increased in price by 7.5 percent, with bread and cereals up by 11.6 percent and dairy by 15.2 percent. “When supply goes down, prices go up, which is why every time Australians go to the checkout, their bill should have Anthony Albanese’s face on it.”