Dole workers not the right solution | OPINION

Dole workers not the right solution | OPINION


Forcing the unemployed to pick fruit is not a good idea, apparently.



THE jobs are there; they just don't want to work.

It's a statement that plenty of people living within horticultural regions have heard. Many of us have probably been guilty of saying it ourselves.

It seems like such a ready-made solution: farmers need workers; the unemployed need jobs.

Why don't those two problems just click together like a Lego-brick?

Dig a little further and there is a large chasm to bridge there.


Earlier this month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison thought he was on a winner when announcing his plan to get Work for the Dole participants to take up fruit and vegetable picking jobs.

It hasn't gone down well at all with employment agencies or farming groups.

Here's a selection of reactions from various people within the horticulture community and further afield.

"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," – Fiona Simson, president, National Farmers' Federation.

"The industry is not the repository for the long-term unemployed and we want willing workers not those with no choice," – David Thomson, CEO, Growcom.

“The TFGA's key concern with pushing welfare recipients into farm work is that they may not want to be working on a farm. Farmers want skilled or non-skilled workers who want to work on farm," – Nick Steel, acting chief executive, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association.

"The reality is that people who are unemployed aren’t looking for a Band-Aid fix. Employers aren’t looking for people who don’t want the work they have to offer but are required to take it. We need a long-term solution to employment in this country, not an illusion hidden in statistics that fuel the dole-bludger perception and make the rich politicians feel better about themselves," – Zoë Wundenberg, careers writer, counsellor and coach,

There have been plenty of other comments posted on social media outlets as well, some far less diplomatic than the ones above.

Mr Morrison's new idea comes after a backtrack on the proposed ag visa, which apparently could still be on the table.

Federal opposition agriculture spokesperson, Joel Fitzgibbon, labelled the ag visa a "zombie visa" what with it being declared dead, followed by the announcement it could back again.

The concept of an ag visa was welcomed by many but the pollies got jittery feet when some Pacific Island nations flagged their concerns with it.

Again, it seems, farm labour has become a football to be kicked around for political point scoring.

Surely we aren't heading for another backpacker tax debacle?


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