Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence says horticulturalists including small block farmers may find themselves at risk this season if they use undocumented workers.
Australian Border Force may monitor farm workers during the coming harvest season, putting farmers at risk if they are found to be employing undocumented workers.
The Federal Government, with the support of Federal Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster, has upgraded aspects of the Seasonal Worker Program and the Pacific Worker Scheme, at a cost of $20 million, to allow more Islanders to come to Australia to work here during the harvest season. Council is surprised to learn that only 27 farmers have registered with licensed employment agencies to take up this offer.
“This is very frustrating,” Mayor Clemence said.
“All levels of government have been working to help farmers and find solutions to agriculture worker shortages. Farmers need to sign up for this scheme now or they risk missing out, leaving them with little option but to use undocumented workers and they will then be at risk.”
Under the new and enhanced scheme, now called RAMP (Regional Agricultural Migration Program) the Government will appoint additional coordinators to assist in the management of the scheme and will also employ accommodation brokers in Mildura to identify suitable accommodation opportunities.
“There are Islanders ready to go,” Mayor Clemence said. “Council encourages farmers to get on board now to protect themselves and ensure their crops are harvested by a legal workforce.”