PM: visa exists

By Country News

Australian farmers effectively have access to an agriculture visa after the government extended a raft of migration programs, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.

The agriculture sector, led by horticulturalists and the National Farmers’ Federation, has been pushing for a specific farm worker visa to address crippling labour shortages.

‘‘We’ve already effectively got it,’’ Mr Morrison said.

‘‘If it’s quibbling about a name, well I think that’s just politics.’’

At the NFF conference in October, Mr Morrison said he remained committed to the idea but urged caution.

‘‘We will work to establish an agriculture visa — that is the long-term solution, even the medium-term solution,’’ he said at the time.

Now he’s confident the government has extended enough existing programs to do the same job as a dedicated visa.

‘‘We already have one. It already works that way. This is just a semantic discussion about titles,’’ he said.

Last week, the government added a host of farm jobs to the Regional Occupations List to allow migrants to be sponsored for up to four years.

The move followed recent changes to the working holiday-maker and seasonal worker visa programs, also designed to address labour shortages in agriculture.

Mr Morrison said he would continue to expand migration schemes as workforce demands presented.

‘‘You continue to try and work with the sector but at the same time you want Australians doing Australian jobs — so you’ve got to get the balance right,’’ he said.