9
Nov 2020

Katter questions Ministers why idle workers are on the dole as fruit rots

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BOB Katter, Federal Member for Kennedy, has penned a Question with Notice to the Minister for Agriculture and Acting Minister for Immigration demanding the immediate intervention on the issue of fruit picking labour as new research revealed that there will be an estimated 15,000 farm jobs available in the Cairns hinterland region in a few weeks, during peak season, and yet 20,000 people are still receiving welfare.

Mr Katter said that similar figures were also revealed elsewhere in Queensland prompting the industry to question why their fruit was being left to rot when there are thousands of idle workers receiving the dole.

“The Government’s response to Covid-19, whether good or bad, has left us with a serious lack of willing workers in north Queensland which is impacting industries that hold our communities together,” Mr Katter said.

“The Minister needs to explain why fruit is being left to rot on the ground in far north Queensland when there are 20,000 people in the area on Jobseeker allowance.”

Mr Katter has suggested a three-prong approach to alleviate the worker shortage problem:

1. Abandoned, cyclone damaged, resorts to be renovated and used as quarantine hubs for incoming overseas workers.

2. Remove the mandatory quarantine requirements for incoming workers from Samoa and Vanuatu, where there is no Covid-19 transmission.

3. Nationalise the social welfare job allocations, which has been run disastrously since it was privatised.

“The privatisation of human services and job allocation has been disastrous for jobs because it means these people can get away with doing nothing whereas they couldn’t before, there’s no accountability now,” he said.

“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 – the Department of Human Services needs to be back under government control.”

Mr Katter said he has spoken to numerous farming organisations today who had supported his call for intervention on the issue, particularly interested in lifting the restrictions on South Pacific Islander workers and the reignition of backpackers to fill the jobs.

“I’m told that the Pacific Islands are Covid-free, and north Queensland is Covid-free. So why are these workers being forced to quarantine here at the cost of the farmer?

“The farmers I have spoken to are simply asking for the restrictions on South Pacific Islanders to be lifted like with New Zealand which allows a reliable coming and going of the workers.

“Under normal circumstances, the backpackers comprise 50 per cent of the fruit pickers in north Queensland which is a region that produces 20 per cent of Australia’s fruit and vegetable supply. But due to border closures, the number of backpackers available is dwindling by the week.”
-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