By Julian Leeser

Our agricultural and horticultural industry is facing substantial labour shortages for the upcoming harvest season. The agricultural and horticultural industry has come to rely on working holiday makers (backpackers) to play a substantial role in harvesting, however international border closures have created a shortage of backpackers, with none expected to enter the country in the immediate future.

If farmers are unable to find workers, this will affect the availability and cost of the fresh produce we enjoy every day. As the Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, I wanted to let you know about some recommendations the Committee has made in its interim report for the inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker program.

We have made recommendations for dealing with the labour shortages, including:

• Developing a “Have a Gap Year at Home” campaign to appeal to young Australians who might have chosen to travel overseas to instead see some of their own country and undertake work in the agriculture and horticulture sectors

• Enabling Australians to stay on JobSeeker whilst undertaking agricultural and horticultural work.

• Establishing a oneoff payment to assist Australians with travel and accommodation costs.

• Temporary amendments make it easier for working holiday makers to stay in the country and for other temporary work visa holders to undertake this work.

Our ability to encourage and motivate Australians to undertake this work has immediate impacts on Australia’s food security and food prices. I also want to take this chance to let you know about my new podcast ‘Getting a Grip’ with Julian Leeser MP. Each episode is an interview with an Australian who has faced adversity and overcome huge challenges.

In the context of COVID-19, it is a great reminder of how resilient people can be.

The interviewees include a lead epidemiologist during the AIDS pandemic in Australia, a survivor of the Nice terror attacks and my wife’s grandmother who was separated from her family at age 14 when her mother was made a prisoner of war in Hong Kong, amongst others.

Please have a listen! You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

To receive my email updates about national announcements impacting out community and my activities as your local federal member, email [email protected]

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