Did anyone take the $1500 to come work on a Bundy farm?
THE State Government has shied away from giving a figure for the number of people who have taken up the Back to Work in Agriculture Incentive Scheme, more than two months after Treasurer Cameron Dick came to town to announce it.
The $1.1 million scheme aimed to bring about 500 workers to the region with the promise of $1500 payments for doing so.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the program was just one of a range of measures being introduced and urged the Federal Government to adopt a "truly national" approach.
"The Back to Work in Agriculture Incentive Scheme is in its early stages and just one element of the Queensland Government's work to ensure sufficient seasonal workers for Queensland farms," he said.
"We are also working with relevant authorities to facilitate labour supply through the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Workers Scheme."
Mr Furner called for a union of state and federal governments to address worker shortages.
"A truly national approach to this issue is essential," he said.
"That's why I'm calling on federal minister David Littleproud to reconvene the Agmin meeting as a matter of urgency so the efforts of all states and the federal government can be co-ordinated."
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said the Federal Government had been willing to work with the state and had dollars on the table for those willing to take up farm work.
"I wrote to Minister Furner in August asking for the State Government to work collaboratively with the Federal Government to look at solutions to the workforce shortage," he said.
Mr Pitt said there were opportunities for bringing workers but also difficulties for farmers.
"The Pacific Labor Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program have been reopened to help get workers here, but farmers are faced with substantial costs associated with this, including quarantining workers," he said.
Mr Pitt said there were jobs available, but claimed people just weren't willing to take them.
"Unfortunately, there is a reluctance for people to take up work, whether that's in agriculture or hospitality, and many businesses are struggling to attract staff," he said.
"In the current environment, every job is a good job and people need to take the work that is offered.
"If people won't go to work on our local farms, we'll have crops rot on the ground and trees, and farmers are already thinking about their future crops.
"No one wants to see the agriculture industry - or any industry for that matter - suffer from a workforce shortage."
Mr Pitt said there were plenty of ways people could get involved in farm work.
"There are a range of incentives for people to work in agriculture, including relocation assistance and the ability for young Australians to gain independent status for Youth Allowance and Abstudy," he said.
"From December 1, people who relocate to harvest and regional areas to take up agricultural work of at least six weeks may be eligible to receive up to $6000 if they are an Australian worker or $2000 if they are a visa holder with general work rights."
Mr Pitt encouraged young people to take a gap year working on farms.
"A person can be considered independent for Youth Allowance and Abstudy if they earn $15,000 through employment in the agricultural industry between the date of Royal Assent to December 31, 2021 and have combined parental income under the parental income threshold of $160,000 per year plus $10,000 for each additional child," he said.
"This is a great opportunity for students who might have taken a gap year and travelled (pre-covid) before starting at university or tertiary study.
"The Job Maker Hiring Credit is also available to employers who take on new employees who have been on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance (other) or parenting payment for at least one month out of the three months before they were hired.
"This credit is paid to employers who hire eligible employees ($200 per week for 16-29 year olds, and $100 per week for 30-35 year olds), that work a minimum of 20 hours a week per quarter and the credit is available for up to 12 months."
The NewsMail contacted the office of Mr Littleproud and AgForce for comment but did not hear back by deadline.
Information on the Back to Work in Agriculture Incentive Scheme can be found here.