The Victorian agricultural industry is facing a labour crisis, which will be further exacerbated by Labor's licence scheme. The VFF won't shy away from the complexities of the labour issue, nor will we pretend there aren’t problems. However, a poorly thought out piece of legislation is being rushed through State Parliament without consideration to the red tape and costs it will impose across the agricultural sector.
The VFF industrial department has spent decades providing clear advice to members regarding their legal responsibilities and clearly outlining what they must do to be accountable to their employees, contractors and the consumer.
Labour is crucial to agriculture across regional Victoria. Whether it’s horticultural producers needing labour for picking, pruning, sorting or packing; livestock farmers needing a team of shearers; grain growers hiring labour or transport contractors; or dairy farmers bringing in a labour team.
The broad definitions and the lack of consultation on the Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017 has led to legislation that will place regulatory burden on almost all farmers. The Bill establishes a licence and enforcement regime that will place a massive cost on farmers and labour hire firms, it is like setting up a State based Fair Work Commission. It is completely unnecessary.
The outcome will impose farm destroying fines while ultimately doing little to protect vulnerable workers.
We thank the independent cross bench and coalition Members of Parliament we met this week. Their desire to understand the potential impact of the Bill should be applauded by their constituents. In our drive to have this Bill amended in parliament we will continue to lobby, advocate and discuss our position across all political parties.
Sadly our State Minister for Agriculture hasn’t ensured the agriculture sector was appropriately consulted once the Bill was drafted, nor do we hold hope that having been made aware of the significant impact this Bill will have on agriculture that she will vote against it.
VFF contends licences have never before been able to stop illegal behaviour. And all the behaviours they aim to stop with these licences are already illegal. Appropriate enforcement of existing laws while supporting agriculture to address the labour issue in a holistic way will go further to addressing the problem.