Community left divided over Federal agricultural code
SOUTHERN Downs farmers have said they’ll be mostly unaffected by the Queensland government’s choice not to sign a national Agricultural Worker Movement Code, despite our Federal member’s apparent exasperation over the move.
The code, put before National Cabinet on Friday, failed to reach a consensus with three states, including Queensland, choosing to refrain from the agreement.
An agricultural code, initially proposed by the National Farmers’ Federation, would have allowed workers to move across all borders in a free manner — similar to the trucking industry.
But despite some consternation across the state, Member for the Southern Downs James Lister said a recent widening of the border bubble had saved most our own region’s farmers from further concern.
“Speaking as our local MP, I feel that the cross-border movement of people for, or in support of agriculture has improved dramatically since I raised the matter with the Chief Health Officer in writing and on the phone,” he said.
“Things aren’t perfect, but my staff and I have seen a dramatic drop-off in complaints from farmers, agricultural workers and associated businesses in the past week.”
Despite that, Mr Lister did support the idea of a cohesive federal code for the long term security of the sector.
“The PM’s initiative of a uniform Agricultural Workers Code is a great proposal and I support his responsible efforts to make sure that COVID-19 doesn’t bankrupt Australia,” Mr Lister said.
“I regret that Queensland didn’t sign up to the code, but from a strictly local Southern Downs perspective, we are getting by after some real problems at the start.”
Amiens leafy greens producer Roy Taylor agreed.
Significant issues reaching his farms, which lay divided over the NSW and Queensland border, had mostly been alleviated in recent weeks.
“We’ve mostly got everything in place, in terms of permits etc,” Mr Taylor said.
“Springborg and MP James Lister really helped get us across the line.”
The response comes after Federal Member for Maranoa David Littleproud voiced his frustrations on Friday.
“Queensland has already got a process in place for farmers and agricultural workers from NSW until 22 September so it’s important they now provide certainty and clarity about that future arrangement,” he said.
“Our farmers and regions have been long calling for a common sense and practical solution to arbitrary state border closures.
“In the vast majority of cases, the closed borders are merely preventing farmers and workers from effectively COVID-free areas to conduct work in other COVID-free areas across state border lines.”