Cut-price quarantine for overseas farm workers

 

Overseas agricultural workers will get half price hotel quarantine in a bid to address a shortage of 15,000 workers across the horticulture and meat sectors in NSW.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the Berejiklian government will today announce a policy to subsidise half the cost of hotel quarantine for workers entering NSW under Pacific Labor Scheme or the Seasonal Worker Program - at a cost of $1,500 per person.

It follows pleas from farmers for more workers, with the industry arguing international border closures have gutted their workforce.

Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall with Young farmer David Davidson, who has welcomed cut price quarantine costs for seasonal agriculture workers. Picture: Tim Hunter
Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall with Young farmer David Davidson, who has welcomed cut price quarantine costs for seasonal agriculture workers. Picture: Tim Hunter

"We have heard loud and clear that the cost of mandatory quarantine is a significant barrier for farming businesses wanting to employ overseas workers," Mr Marshall said.

The subsidy brings NSW in line with other states and territories which are offering various programs subsidising seasonal workers' quarantine costs or offering 'on-farm quarantine' arrangements.

The state government is expecting to pay half the quarantine cost of thousands of workers, acknowledging a 5,000 worker shortage in horticulture and a 10,00 worker shortage in the meat sector.

The subsidised quarantine cost announcement comes despite tens of thousands of stranded Australians still facing a $3,000 fee for compulsory quarantine when they arrive in NSW from overseas.

"Assisting Australians who want to return home will continue to be our number one priority, but we can't ignore the importance of our agricultural sector and their critical need for workers," Mr Perrottet said.

"This will help our vital agricultural sector which is worth more than $10 billion to the NSW economy each year."

Queensland stone fruit grower Angus Ferrier with workers Eleanor Smith from the UK and her partner Kilian Hoeckman from Belgium. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen
Queensland stone fruit grower Angus Ferrier with workers Eleanor Smith from the UK and her partner Kilian Hoeckman from Belgium. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen

All seasonal workers approved to quarantine in NSW during the 2020-21 financial year will be eligible for the subsidised costs, provided most of their work is done in this state.

Mr Marshall said the cut-priced quarantine for workers has "made it more commercially viable for the farmers to get the workforce they need".

David Davidson, a fifth generation farmer from Young, said the region has felt the impact of a downturn in seasonal workers.

In addition to picking fruit, seasonal workers bring a benefit to Young by spending money in town, he said.

Mr Davidson said cutting the cost of hotel quarantine for overseas agriculture workers is a "good measure" which will bring "a boost to our region".

Mr Davidson's shearing operation has been delayed six weeks due to COVID labour shortages and recent flooding.

He hoped getting more agricultural workers into the state would assist him in getting his sheep sheared.

 

 

 

Originally published as Cut-price quarantine for overseas farm workers



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