States urged to join pre-travel quarantine trial for seasonal workers

States urged to join pre-travel quarantine trial for seasonal workers

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The trial is open to all states and territories. So far, only South Australia has signed up to the pilot program.

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ALL states are being urged to take part in a new trial that will allow seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands to quarantine in their own country.

The agriculture industry is grappling with a pandemic-induced labour shortage, as the current quarantine restrictions make it difficult to bring in workers through the Pacific Labour Scheme or Seasonal Worker Programme.

The pilot program will allow countries such as Vanuatu and Fiji, or any other participating country who already run successful quarantine programs, to pre-screen seasonal workers before they travel to Australia.

The trial is open to all states and territories. So far, only South Australia has signed up to the pilot program.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the other states had to recognise the nation's farmers needed these workers urgently.

"There is no excuse for them not to sign up and ensure their farmers will have the workers when they need them," Mr Littleproud said.

"They could be part of this win-win pilot which is good for Australian farmers and for Pacific nations who are able to earn vital income during this challenging period."

The horticulture industry has been pushing for pre-travel quarantine and expanding the Australian-New Zealand travel bubble to the rest of the Pacific Islands since before Christmas.

AusVeg spokesperson Tyson Cattle said the trial was another lever to ramp up the scale of production, but it wouldn't be a silver bullet.

"Our push is to get all the states to sign up to this," Mr Cattle said.

"Particularly NSW, it's the only state that hasn't signed up to a quarantine pathway. Farmers have no option to bring in workers."

"We hope the states have learnt from last year and jump on this quicker. The situation is only getting progressively worse. Backpacked numbers continue to decline and there is no end in sight for when international borders will reopen."

Many of the Pacific Islands are among the few countries in the world to remain free of COVID-19.

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