Labor Ban Costs Australia Growers Millions

Ernie NeffCOVID-19, International, Labor

On July 27, Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said a ban on citrus workers entering New South Wales (NSW) is costing growers $1.7 million a day. Hancock has urged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to consult with industry and cancel the ban that is keeping out seasonal harvesters. The restriction on harvesters entering NSW was instituted to curtail the spread of COVID-19. Learn more about the restriction here.

Hancock said Berejiklian had repeated incorrect information at recent media conferences. He is concerned her misunderstanding of the dire situation may be preventing a solution. “Citrus Australia has been working with NSW DPI (Department of Primary Industries) to find a solution to this problem, but ultimately the final decision must be made by NSW Health,” Hancock said.

At media conferences last week and again on Monday, Berejiklian said restrictions for seasonal workers have been in place since the pandemic began “so that’s no different now.”

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“It’s a very different scenario now,” Hancock said. “Workers previously had to isolate before joining farms to work, which they have done, with many having worked on NSW farms close to the border since May. As of last Wednesday, the NSW government placed a complete ban on all seasonal workers holding visas from entering NSW, with no option to enter at all. It is a completely different set of rules that disregards the COVID-19 prevention measures industry, accommodation providers and growers have put in place to protect themselves, these workers and the community. It also discriminates against seasonal workers with visas, who are abiding by these rules, and as of today has cost growers $10 million.”

Hancock added that the premier’s statements that these essential agriculture workers could be easily replaced were ill-informed and misleading. “We would be pleased to host the premier and her advisers on a tour of our farms so she can hear firsthand the issues of attracting and retaining a workforce,” Hancock said. “We are talking about 1,200 workers that need to be replaced immediately.”

Hancock finished by saying Berejiklian’s comment that “on the rung of issues for us to be concerned about, that’s (the seasonal worker ban) not high on the list” was offensive to growers who have had their business continuity derailed.

Source: Citrus Australia

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