Visa extensions welcome, uniform approach sought from states

Citrus Australia has welcomed today’s (April 4) Federal Government decision to allow Working Holiday Makers (backpackers) and Pacific Islanders to extend their stay for up to 12 months of work.

CEO Nathan Hancock said the Government must ensure these bridging visas can be approved as soon as possible as the Queensland citrus harvest is underway.

Mr Hancock has also called on the Government to actively assist regional councils and growers prepare self-isolation arrangements with practical measures and guidance.

The Government must also assist effective communication with backpackers about the need to register their self-isolation.

“Our growers are ready to harvest thousands of tonnes of fresh Australian citrus for Australian consumers, and immediate access to these visa extensions is crucial,” Mr Hancock said.

“We are pleased the Government has made this decision and our growers will prioritise all health and safety requirements related to the management of COVID-19. “

Mr Hancock said growers are already adjusting housing arrangements and workplace practices in the orchard and packing sheds to cater for social distancing and hygiene requirements.

However, Federal and state governments must continue to work with the citrus and other horticulture industries in producing uniform guidelines for all businesses, he said.

“Citrus Australia has provided advice to growers on how to manage their harvest, and their workforce, through this challenging period.

“The Government has said it will work with states and territories on enforcement and sanction mechanisms.

“However, it is imperative that Federal and state governments produce a uniform, accepted set of guidelines for all growers to follow.”

Mr Hancock said the Government must also assist local councils in providing adequate facilities in what are often small towns for any workers potentially exposed to COVID-19 to self-isolate.

“The seasonal workforce, and agricultural businesses, are crucial to the economic wellbeing of these councils and some councils have taken up the challenge to prepare for these unusual circumstances.

“Government assistance is both necessary and warranted.”

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