Plea for premiers to use commonsense for cross-border ag workers

Plead for premiers to use commonsense for cross-border ag workers

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IMPASSIONED PLEA: The National Party has made an impassioned plea to state governments to support easing of border restrictions.

IMPASSIONED PLEA: The National Party has made an impassioned plea to state governments to support easing of border restrictions.

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The Nationals have made a public plead to state premiers, urging them to agree to a national code that will give ag workers an exemption to move between states.

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THE Nationals have made a public heart-felt plead to state premiers, urging them to agree to a national code that will give ag workers an exemption to move between states.

A decision is due at Friday's National Cabinet meeting, however early reports indicate the majority of states are not in favour of the ag codes.

Despite the public appeal to premiers, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack maintained he had "every faith" the ag codes would be agreed to.

"I'm confident that we will see practical commonsense achieved," Mr McCormack said.

"This code is sensible for our farmers, for them to be able to go across the border and do what they need to do."

Mr McCormack also criticised the Queensland government's decision to allow AFL officials into the state for the grand final announcement, while continuing to ignore regional communities.

"When people can't access health, when people can't go to the funeral of a loved one, it's not right and it's not fair," he said.

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Agriculture Minister David Littleproud challenged any state government who didn't agree with the codes to back their stance up with medical evidence.

Mr Littleproud also said without the codes, the states risked food storages.

"If they don't start talking to one another and working with one another they're going to have an even bigger shortage," Mr Littleproud said

"We've made that clear to all the states - you need to understand that you need to work through that now, because we don't want to be having another bum fight in two months, three months time when it becomes critical.

"That's not leadership, that's just politics."

Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke has expressed dismay at reports Australia's chief medical officers have thrown out a bid, by NSW, Victoria and the federal government, to ease cross border restrictions.

A proposed code was due to be presented to National Cabinet today.

Mr Jochinke canned what he said was "irresponsible rejection" of the proposed code by chief health officers, who meet as the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

"Reports today about the irresponsible rejection of the National Agriculture Worker code are a complete kick in the guts for farmers," Mr Jochinke said.

"I cannot overstate the devastation many of our regional communities now face, many of whom have been hit by drought, bushfire and now COVID-19.

"The VFF has been extremely clear that there is an urgent need for free movement of the agricultural workforce."

He said it beggared belief farmers, who provided food and fibre to feed the nation, continued to be hamstrung by people who simply didn't understand the economic implications.

Shepparton Independent MP Suzanna Sheed said she was pleased the Shepparton council had been removed from the list of "areas of concern" by the NSW Department of Health.

"This will make a significant difference to many agricultural workers in our region,' Ms Sheed said.

"On 17 August 2020 New South Wales public health orders were amended to establish a new permit category of "a person who is a critical service (agriculture) worker providing a critical agriculture service".

But, at the time, Greater Shepparton LGA was classified by NSW as an area of concern and therefore not eligible for these permits.

"As I understand it, and the landscape changes continually, the removal of this area of concern classification will enable many of our agricultural workers to get the permits they need to travel across the border into New South Wales,' she said.

"Such a permit enables an agricultural worker residing within the 100 km radius of the border to be able to travel across the border zone.

Ms Sheed said it was extremely disappointing to see reports of the rejection of the National Agriculture Worker code.

"If we can't get this right we will be in trouble. Food production must be given priority and rules put in place to enable this to occur. Every state in the Commonwealth should be working towards this and it is essential that our full food production capacity be maintained and supported," she said.

"This virus is not going to go away soon, and a national code is a must.

"I urge those National party ministers who are members of the Federal government and the New South Wales government to exercise their influence within their own governments to make this happen."

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The story Plea for premiers to use commonsense for cross-border ag workers first appeared on Farm Online.

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