7
Aug 2020

Fruit and vegetable supply at risk due to a worker shortage

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KENNEDY MP, Bob Katter has called upon the Federal and State Governments to work together to prevent a shortage of fruit and vegetable supply that will hit Australia over Summer due to a lack of willing workers.

Coronavirus border closures has prevented new backpackers and Pacific Island workers from traveling to North Queensland to work on farms, and with the Job Seeker payments doubled producers are unable to obtain local Australian workers.

Mr Katter said the issue of not being able to get local workers had spread into other vital industries and required drastic action.

“You knowing something is going really wrong when our harvests are rotting in the field because our farmers have no pickers,” he said.

“Until two or three years ago I had never advocated for the dole to be cut off where work is offered and not taken up, but I am changing now.

“Whether it is Mackay mining contractors, farmers in Tully, or Taxi drivers in Cairns or Townsville, the complaints are coming in from everywhere and the government is left with no alternative.”

Mr Katter said the Federal Government may also need to look into the possibility of bringing in overseas workers if Australians will not step up to the plate.

“We can get the backpackers brought in after a strict two week quarantine period, but in reality, there are a lot who won’t want to come,” he said.

“Either way, the Government has got to move on this and it must come to grips with the disastrous failure that has been the “double-dip-dole.” It has become too attractive and so people are leaving work altogether.

“The Federal Government has announced that it will slowly scale down Job Seeker payments, and reintroduce checks and balances on eligibility. But this will need to be monitored closely to ensure people aren’t discouraged from finding work.

“The fact that Australia is already a net importer of fruit and veg, pork and seafood, no one seems to care about that. I repeat that slowly. Australia already can’t feed itself in the areas of fruit, vegetables, pork and seafood. And the virus means our imported foods are in jeopardy. And now our domestic farmers are in desperate need of workers to meet our domestic quota.

“The farmers are screaming. The mining contractors are screaming. The taxi owners are screaming. The mechanics are screaming. Our meat processors are screaming. They just can’t get people and it is becoming a huge problem.

“I’m certain Australia can achieve self-sufficiency but the Government needs to act fast if we want to be able to feed our nation come Christmas.”
-ENDS-

Contact Details

Innisfail
P: (07) 4061 6066
F: (07) 4061 6566
Visit: Cnr Edith and Owen St
Post: PO Box 1638
Innisfail, Qld 4860

Mount Isa
P: (07) 4743 3534
F: (07) 4743 0189
Visit: 42-44 Simpson St
Post: PO Box 2130
Mount Isa, Qld 4825

Canberra
(when Parliament is sitting)
P: (02) 6277 4978
F: (02) 6277 8558

Local Call within the electorate
P: 1300 301 942

Email: Bob.Katter.MP@aph.gov.au