Barker farm businesses and communities stand to benefit from an announcement made by the Australian Government to extend working holiday maker and other visas amid the COVID-19 crisis with requirements to support the on-going health of regional communities.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud, and Member for Barker Federal Member for Barker said the visa changes will allow Pacific seasonal workers, working holiday makers and a range of other visa holders who are unable to depart Australia including in Barker, to continue to work until this health crisis has passed or they are able to return to their home countries.

“Agriculture is an essential sector and it relies on temporary visa holders, many of whom arrive and depart Australia on a seasonal basis. These visa holders fill a critical workforce gap in this sector,” Minister Littleproud said.

“That is why the Australian Government is putting temporary measures in place to allow important work in the agriculture sector to continue and enable workers already here to extend their stay and remain lawfully in Australia until they are able to return to their home countries.

“At the same time, it is critical we manage this labour force to support the on-going health of regional communities and we’ve acted to include requirements to ensure visa holders follow self-isolation requirements when they move between regions”.

“The Australian government stands with industry and will continue to provide support where it is required most to ensure we’re still standing strong when we make it through this pandemic.”

We are working closely with State and Territory Governments and industry to ensure appropriate health controls are in place for the ongoing health and well-being of our regional communities.

The National Farmers Federation has developed best practice guidance for farmers regarding requirements for accommodation and working arrangements for farm workers (either domestic or migrant) during the covid-19 outbreak.

“We have asked the Chief Medical Officer to review these guidelines and it is critical that they are then considered by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, Minister Littleproud said.

Mr Pasin said the visa extensions are one more way that the Australian Government was giving farmers and communities throughout Barker critical support during what has been a very difficult start to the year.

“Horticultural producers will breathe a sigh of relief as a result of this announcement. Many producers in Barker have contacted me concerned that their produce would not be harvested without access to international seasonal workers. Allowing temporary visa holders to stay in Australia until this crisis is resolved will mean Australian growers will be able to get their product to market.”

“I know there has been strong interest amongst Australians who have lost their jobs to fill these roles and in that regard I am pleased to that we are keeping the market testing requirements in place to ensure these jobs will be filled by Australians first.”

“This decision will ensure that Australian farmers can continue during this difficult time to supply the Australian consumer and indeed those overseas consumers also with the fresh foods we are globally recognised for producing”.