Job Seekers Told To Pick Fruit Or Lose Welfare Payments
Scott Morrison has called on Australians on the dole to get to work by helping struggling farmers.
The PM announced a new government scheme on Saturday, urging job seekers to take up work on farms or face losing their welfare payments for up to a month.
“If you’re fit and you’re able and you’re available, then you should be working, not taking the dole," Morrison told reporters on Saturday.
Under the scheme, farmers are able to register their job requirements, pay and conditions with the National Harvest Labour Information Service and job providers will try to find unemployed locals to fill the positions.
If they don't have a reasonable excuse for not accepting the work, job seekers can have their welfare payments frozen for up to four weeks.
"While we're tackling the labour shortage this also ensures job seekers on taxpayer support have no excuse to refuse opportunities," Morrison said.
“The farmers need you to do the work, the Australian economy needs you to do it as well and it’ll be a great shot in the arm for those of you who haven’t been at work for some time to go and get onto a work site."
But not everyone has welcomed the new plan.
National Farmers' Federation President Fiona Simson said the scheme was a "shallow approach to a deep problem," and cited past calls from the industry for a dedicated Agricultural Visa.
"Many agricultural tasks are short-term or seasonal. Often these arrangements aren't attractive to local workers, who have ongoing financial commitments and longer term career aspirations," Simson said in a statement.
"Their plan to encourage workers onto farms using a carrot and stick approach might be well-intentioned, but shows a lack of understanding of the issue. We need a real solution, and we need it yesterday."
CEO of AUSVEG, the industry representative body for vegetable and potato growers, James Whiteside called Morrison's plan a "slap in the face."
"What we need is a workforce that wants to work on farms. As it stands growers lack confidence to plant more crops or plant labour-intensive crops because they won’t be able to harvest them," he said.
"We need to address the critical shortage of farm labour now, and the best solution that we have is a dedicated Agricultural Visa."
Morrison denied the scheme introduced changes to how people could lose access to welfare payments. As it stands now, after three instances or three jobseeker demerits in six months you can lose access.
Featured image: AAP