National Farmers’ Federation Chief Executive Tony Mahar has thanked the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Chief Ministers of the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory for their commitment to adopt consistent principles and protocols that will oversee the movement of agricultural workers and equipment.
Mr Mahar said it was disappointing the Premiers of Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania were at this stage not prepared to support a nationally-consistent Agriculture Workers Movement Code, as recommended by farmers.
“Regardless, five out of eight states and territories is a positive step in the right direction and will go a long way to ensuring agriculture can keep operating without unreasonable delays and barriers, while safeguarding public health priorities.
“It’s our strong hope, given the passage of time and a continuing decrease in active cases, that the outlining states will support the Code.”
Mr Mahar said the NFF had provided input on the development of the principles and protocols and looked forward to reading the final details of the Code agreed to by five states and territories today.
“It’s crucial that the Code provides true consistency across states and territories and that it is implemented as soon as possible.
“Time really is of the essence. Across the country, the farm sector is going into its busiest time of the year: the spring shearing season is under way, summer fruits are almost ready for picking and the harvest of a bumper grain crop get will start from the end of October.”
Mr Mahar said agriculture, like many other industries, did not operate pursuant to lines on a map and practical cross-border movement of people and equipment was essential to the industry’s prosperity.
“Farmers grow food and fibre for all Australians. For example, Sydney-siders enjoy mangoes from Kununurra and bananas from north Queensland. As a Federation, we’re not set up to function within hard borders.
“We really do hope that Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, will soon feel comfortable supporting this important Code and we can finally arrive at a truly national approach.
“We will be living under the cloud of this wicked pandemic for the foreseeable future. As a nation we need to adapt to a new norm, a risk-based approach to border restrictions is key to this,” Mr Mahar said.