MEDIA – Transcript – ABC Radio Darwin – New agricultural visas for ASEAN nations
CANBERRA – 16 June, 2021
ADAM STEER, HOST: The age limit for the working holiday visas will increase to 35 for both countries and the UK will liberalize the import of Australian lamb, beef, and sugar. The other big change is going to be an ag visa. Luke Gosling is the ALP Member for Solomon. Luke Gosling, good morning. What’s the latest details that you have on this proposed ag visa?
LUKE GOSLING, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Good morning, Adam. There isn’t too much detail at the moment, so the National Farmers Federation and other stakeholders are obviously asking for that. The NT farmers would be, like I am, welcoming the talk of this ag visa because it’s been something that our farmers have been calling for. As we know, every year it comes around to mango season and melon season and there haven’t been enough pickers. Now With COVID the situation is going to be increasingly difficult for farmers to find those pickers.
So what the Government have announced – but of course it’s only an announcement so far – is that people from ASEAN countries will be able to apply for an ag visa to come and help us get our produce off the market. And we know that there’s been in excess of $45 million in rotting crops due to workforce shortages on farms. So it’s obviously going to be welcomed by our farmers, but light on detail and we’re hoping to get that detail soon.
STEER: Yeah, and the suggestion that there’ll be no age limitation for that visa. British backpackers will now have no longer have to do farm work for 88 days to get that third year of their visa. Is that a concern for you? No more British backpackers at our mango farms in the Top End?
GOSLING: Well, essentially, the way the Government have explained it, is it’s brought into brought us into line with the experience that Australians have when they go over to the UK, i.e., to extend their stay there in the UK they don’t have to do farm work, but in Australia up until now they’ve had to do farm work. To offset that, they’re finally moving on an ag visa from ASEAN countries, because obviously, if they were to turn off the tap of UK backpackers picking fruit, well, then then that would be no good for horticulture. So they’re saying that there will be ASEAN ag visa. But it’s been three years they’ve been saying that. So when there’s some more detail and there’s some concrete plans, we’re hoping that obviously our farmers can take advantage of that for this upcoming mango season. But at this stage, there’s not too many details.
STEER: Good on you Luke Gosling, it’s good to hear from you.