Incentive scheme ‘not enough’ to address worker shortages

Michael RobertsGeraldton Guardian
Harvesting barley at Boyup Brook farmer Ben Creek's property.
Camera IconHarvesting barley at Boyup Brook farmer Ben Creek's property. Credit: Countryman

The WA Opposition has hit out at the State Government’s decision to renew a farm worker incentive scheme that was launched last year to plug a hole in the regional labour market.

Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan announced this week the Government would reset incentives that provide primary industry workers a $500 travel allowance and $40 per night on accommodation expenses if they are moving to regional WA for a new job.

Those eligible for the scheme must have worked in an agriculture, fisheries or food processing job since September 9 and be moving more than 100km. More than 1500 people took advantage of the scheme during its first 12 months, at a cost of $1.9 million.

Colin de Grussa
Camera IconColin de Grussa Credit: Picture: DAVID BROADWAY

Shadow agriculture minister Colin de Grussa has slammed the program’s renewal, saying the scheme failed to address WA’s agricultural labour shortage in any meaningful way.

“The State Government knows full well the scheme was an abject failure in 2020, which is why the Opposition pushed hard for a process to bring skilled workers into WA well ahead of this year’s harvest,” he said.

“Rather than taking up our suggestions, the Agriculture Minister has now made a desperate plea for local workers when harvest has already started. It’s unacceptable — the State’s farmers, producers and regional communities should quite rightly be frustrated at the lack of action by this Labor Government.”

Since December, more than 1750 Pacific Islanders have been flown into WA under the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme, according to the State Government.

"We know we are on track for a record grain harvest this year, on top of the huge number of jobs available right across our primary industries,” Ms MacTiernan said.

"We’re pulling out all stops to encourage local workers to get out and support our farmers.”

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan speaks to media during this year's Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days.
Camera IconWA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan speaks to media during this year's Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days. Credit: Countryman

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