Budget 2020: Ag worker funding wins praise

By: Andrew Hobbs

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Horticulture groups have praised budget moves to encourage young people to take up farm work, but warn it is no ‘silver bullet’ for the sector

Budget 2020: Ag worker funding wins praise
The Budget has new incentives for people to move to regional Australia for work. Image courtesy Alamy.

 

People who relocate to country areas to take up farm work may be eligible for government grants to help with the move, under new budget measures announced on Tuesday.

The Federal Government will modify its existing Relocation Assistance to take up a job program, which it estimates will cost it $17.4 million over two years, to provide relocation rebates for workers.


The government also made a series of generous business tax concessions in the budget. Click here to read more


From November 1, relocation assistance will be available for people who move for ongoing work (including an apprenticeship) and those who relocate to harvest and regional areas to take up short-term agricultural work.

Australians moving for short-term agricultural work may be eligible for up to $6,000, while visa holders with the right to work in Australia could be eligible for $2,000.

If your new job is in the agricultural sector, it must be at least six weeks (and at least 120 hours). Otherwise, your new job must be for more than 30 hours a week and ongoing for six months.

The Government will also adjust the requirements that people must meet if they want to qualify as independent, in order to access Youth Allowance and ABStudy.

Under the change, people who earn at least $15,000 in the agricultural industry from November 30, 2020 to December 31, 2021, will be automatically assessed as meeting independence requirements, as long as their parents meet the current parenting income testing requirements.

The government estimates this will cost it $16.3 million over three years from 2020-21

Vegetable growers’ peak body AusVeg chief executive James Whiteside welcomed the announcement, saying growers would always prefer to use local workers.  

"The issues of ensuring growers have access to an adequate and reliable source of labour and continuing to service critical export markets are vital areas that needed to be addressed in the budget. We are pleased to see the Morrison Government has responded," he says.

"It may not be the silver bullet the industry needs, but we are encouraged that the Government is working with industry to find workable and reasonable solutions to this critical problem.

National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson also welcomed the proposal, but added that she and the NFF would continue to call for a "designated workforce solution to address agriculture’s ongoing labour challenges."

The budget has "a pragmatic but bold spending agenda that will accelerate agriculture’s growth and regional Australia’s contribution to the nation’s bottom line," she says. 

"The NFF welcomes a combination of big-ticket, future-focused regional infrastructure spends and immediate cash injections needed to stimulate growth and to address the COVID-induced challenges facing farmers, including critical labour shortages."

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