Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday. Picture: Paul Braven/AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday. Picture: Paul Braven/AAP

Final ultimatum for dole cheats

DOLE bludgers who refuse to work for farmers desperate for help face losing their welfare, under a tough Federal Government plan to stop fruit and vegetables rotting on vines.

Instead of immediately creating a new agriculture visa to parachute overseas workers on to farms for the upcoming critical season, the Government will demand unemployed Aussies get off the couch, roll up their sleeves and get into paid work to help the country.

In a move not dissimilar to One Nation policy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will demand Australian jobs be taken by Australians first - and those who refuse face consequences.

Farmers in Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia have complained they cannot find staff needed for their seasonal work, meaning some are preparing to watch produce like mangoes rot.

In a recent decision approved by the Government's Expenditure Review Committee, farmers with job needs in regional Australia will be asked to register their employment requirements and pay and conditions with the National Harvest Labour Information Service.

Job providers - tasked with trying to get people into work - will try to get jobseekers nearby into those farm jobs.

If a person does not have an acceptable reason for refusing a farm job, they face losing one month of welfare payments, possibly more.

The Government will also re-examine how they get more unemployed Australians into work generally, but also to specifically help farmers, some who finally come through a drought only to have a drought of workers who could help them get back on their feet.

The Government is also looking at extra options if farmers still need a bigger workforce, including changes to the Seasonal Worker Program, Pacific Labour Scheme and Working Holiday Maker visas.

Mr Morrison said the change would ensure Australian jobs were being filled by Australians.

"Our Government has heard from farmers across the country about how tough it is right now to find workers, particularly at the height of harvest season for some crops," he said.

"We want to highlight exactly where the jobs are and make sure job seekers know where to be looking.

"While we're tackling the labour shortage this also ensures job seekers on taxpayer support have no excuse to refuse opportunities.

"Where we cannot find Australians to do the work, we cannot allow the fruit to rot.

"We will back our farmers and make arrangements through our Pacific Island worker and migration program to get the job done."

Regional Development Minister Michael McCormack said the regions needed a strategic, targeted approach to solve labour needs.

"We understand the need to provide more flexible workforce options to help our farmers pick their fruit and harvest their crops this season," Mr McCormack said.

"This will help to ensure our farmers and agribusinesses can continue growing and supplying the world's best food and fibre, to boost and sustain regional economies.

"So we are working to ensure there is a strategic and targeted labour force to help farmers and country communities pick the fruit and finish harvest when and where they need it.

"There are jobs and opportunities in the regions - especially in Australian agriculture - and we are working with farmers, local communities and job-seekers to fill those jobs, help country communities grow and prosper and keep good, Aussie produce on Australians' kitchen tables."

Tensions have boiled over between the Liberals and the Nationals over a need for an agriculture visa to help farmers pick their produce.

However national security issues, including China's muscle in the Pacific and soft diplomacy with regional neighbours, have caused internal roadblocks for the Coalition.

It is understood Mr McCormack told his colleagues he would secure an agriculture visa in the secretive Coalition agreement.

The policy does not sit with the Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, but Immigration Minister David Coleman is working on a longer-term plan.

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