Government rebates for work in agriculture and horticulture begin next Monday, but an industry group is concerned it’s targeting the wrong people.
Regional WA is facing a labour shortage due to COVID-19, and a state government ad campaign called ‘work and wander out yonder” began two weeks ago.
The roles involved range from fruit and vegetable picking, grain harvesting and working in hospitality.
Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia policy officer Ian Randles says the government launched this campaign after concerns over border closures.
“The government realised with closing the borders, there would be an impediment with workers travelling from outside Australia and interstate,” Mr Randles says.
Retired farmer Robert Clare says young people, especially those on university break, should consider taking up regional jobs.
“When you’re on a farm, you work long hours under pretty good conditions,” Mr Clare says.
“You get good time off. Generally farming people look after their employees very well and it’s much more relaxed and laid back, while you’re doing a very important job.”
“You get paid well for a short period of time and then can go back to your life.”
The rebate scheme will take effect on September 21.
Premier Mark McGowan said last week a shortage of workers has created job prospects for young people across the state.
“COVID-19 travel restrictions have seen backpacker numbers in WA drop to less than half the usual number, leading to labour challenges across a range of occupations but also creating a unique opportunity for young people in WA,” Mr McGowan said.
“We are calling on young West Aussies to take this opportunity to get the ‘backpacker holiday experience’ at home – broadening horizons, getting to know your regions and all they have to offer.”
Mr Randles says the PGA of WA is concerned the campaign isn’t a realistic expectation of what is needed in the WA farming community.
“The Government is running a campaign that shows very handsome young people running around with a basket of fruit and vegetables in their hand,” Mr Randles says.
“That’s not broadacre agriculture. Broadacre agriculture is operating harvesting machines that cost $1.2 million or operating a boom sprayer that costs $600,000.”
“It’s very expensive machinery. You can train a person to do it, but you just can’t get a person off the street to operate these machines. That’s what concerns us.”
Under the new rebate scheme, eligible workers who move to the regions for agricultural work will be able to claim up to $40 a night for a maximum of 12 weeks.
Mr Clare says this scheme is important as farmers only need people to work during busy periods.
“To employ someone on a permanent basis is incredibly expensive when you only need them for peak demand when the crop is being harvested,” he says.
“It has to be done in a very confined space of time, so therefore you need a lot of people.”
A travel allowance will be also made available to those relocating more than 100 kilometres from their usual place of residence.
Workers will be able to claim $150 for travel to the South West, $350 for travel to the Gascoyne or Pilbara and $500 for travel to the Kimberley.