Partial win on ag worker cross border code

Partial win on ag worker cross border code

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The agricultural workers movement code will allow contractors from Victoria to move to NSW and SA should they want to, but crossing into Queensland could still present problems.

The agricultural workers movement code will allow contractors from Victoria to move to NSW and SA should they want to, but crossing into Queensland could still present problems.

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Five out of eight states and territories have signed up to a national ag worker movement code to allow essential ag services to go ahead.

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THE AGRICULTURE sector has welcomed the establishment of an agricultural worker movement code that has had five out of eight states and territories sign up but is disappointed three states have not agreed to its terms.

Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania did not agree to the code, which has been brokered by the Federal Government during a National Cabinet meeting on Friday.

It means movements of interstate workers in those states cannot be guaranteed.

Under the code agricultural workers, similar to other essential workers such as those in the transport industry, will be able to cross state borders relatively easily and without the same harsh restrictions that apply to the general public to allow vital agricultural work to take place.

Hopes were high that it would be agreed across the board, but ag leaders are pleased there will at least be a bubble across three major agricultural states in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, although it is not known what date the deal will come into effect.

The Queensland government's decision it was too risky to allow ag workers in, in spite of making the controversial decision to grant permission to travel to a host of high profile AFL leaders from COVID-19 hotspot Melbourne, places the winter crop harvest in the Sunshine State in jeopardy.

Queensland's ag sector is likely to be more impacted by its government's refusal to sign up, with the natural geographic boundaries with WA and Tasmania meaning there is less overlap of the workforce into those states.

National Farmers Federation chief executive, Tony Mahar, said the news at least some states would operate under a shared code was good news but it was disappointing that Queensland had not backed the code.

"Regardless, five out of eight states and territories is a positive step in the right direction and will go a long way to ensuring agriculture can keep operating without unreasonable delays and barriers, while safeguarding public health priorities," Mr Mahar said.

He said he remained hopeful the other states would eventually come on board.

"It's our strong hope, given the passage of time and a continuing decrease in active cases, that the outlining states will support the code."

He said the announcement was critical given the time of year, running into agriculture's most hectic period.

"Time really is of the essence," he said.

"Across the country, the farm sector is going into its busiest time of the year: the spring shearing season is under way, summer fruits are almost ready for picking and the harvest of a (potentially) bumper grain crop will start from the end of October."

Mr Mahar said agriculture, like many other industries, did not operate pursuant to lines on a map and practical cross-border movement of people and equipment was essential to the industry's prosperity.

"Farmers grow food and fibre for all Australians. For example, Sydney-siders enjoy mangoes from Kununurra and bananas from north Queensland.

"As a Federation, we're not set up to function within hard borders.

In the grains sector the chairman of Grain Growers, Brett Hosking, had a similar view.

"What the Code means in practical terms is that the grains industry can focus on harvest," Mr Hosking said.

"As a sector that contributes around $14billion annually, we are looking forward to getting on with our jobs."

However, he said Grain Growers wanted to see all states sign up.

"I really do urge the states who haven't yet agreed to the code, to continue to engage in the discussions so we can all see positive outcomes before what we hope is a bumper harvest."

"We have growers who live and farm close to the borders and it's critical they have the workforce they need to get this grain harvest in," Mr Hosking said.

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