Monday, 31 August 2020
Northern Tablelands MP and Minister for Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall will this week put his shoulder behind a push to establish a national Agricultural Workers Code, to allow the free flow of agricultural produce and labor across state and territory borders, regardless of COVID-19 restrictions.
Mr Marshall and Deputy Premier John Barilaro have released a NSW proposal for the National Agriculture Code, which will be considered at meeting of the country’s Agriculture Ministers tomorrow.
“NSW will take the position that there should be no restrictions on the movement of agricultural workers crossing borders,” Mr Marshall said.
“Much like the national code which is place for the freight industry, my stance is agriculture must to be treated as an essential service, to ensure the consistent treatment of agricultural workers across the various states and territories, and encourage the free movement of labour.
“Our farmers have had a gutful of these senseless border restrictions and so have I.
“As Agriculture Minister I am not going to stand by quietly while our primary producers face failed crops and animal welfare disasters due to well-meaning but impractical road blocks
“Our proposal has four key components, being all critical agriculture workers can cross state and territory boundaries without restriction, workers and workplaces will have COVID Safe plans, workers will have access to PPE gear and will self-isolate when not working in the agriculture sector.
“If there is an identified hot spot, additional restrictions could be imposed – for example if there was a significant cluster emerged in a town like Moree, permit restrictions could be imposed.
“While I am thankful the Queensland Government has co-operated in establishing an agricultural exemption for its border, the national code will ensure fewer disruptions to farming should there be future flare-ups of COVID-19.
“If we don’t allow the full harvest in the west to go ahead with its entire workforce then we are hobbling ourselves with restrictions that are going to cost the agriculture sector tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs, at a time when we are all riding on the success of rural Australia to rebuild the economy.”
Tomorrow, Agriculture Ministers will consider and agree to what a Code will look like, this Code will then be considered by National Cabinet this Friday (4 September).
NSW will take the position that there should be no restrictions on the movement of agricultural workers crossing borders so long as:
- An employer has a COVID Safe Plan
- Workers carry and use PPE
- Individuals self-isolate when not working
- Workers keep records to allow contact tracing
- As part of the Code, workers will also be encouraged to submit for regular testing for COVID-19.
- If there is an identified hot spot, additional restrictions could be imposed.