Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (5.59 pm): Daily we rely on Queensland’s growers. Whether it is juicy stone fruit, the salad we make or the veggies on our dinner plate—this world-class produce is possible because of the daily efforts of Queensland’s horticulturalists. COVID is causing a labour shortage crisis for our growers.
Mr WATTS: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Kelly): Pause the clock. What is your point of order, member?
Mr WATTS: I cannot hear the member on his feet.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I grant the point of order. I ask members to remain orderly as you are leaving the chamber.
Mr PERRETT: Estimates from the agriculture department show a current shortage of up to 9,000 workers. The government loves talking up its health response. I wish the response to Queensland’s farm labour crisis had as much attention. To this day, we still see no targeted or relevant support for Queensland horticulturalists, despite repeated calls from industry and the opposition. Industry bodies including Growcom have raised concerns about the mental, physical and financial costs that growers are absorbing.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Pause the clock. I ask the people in the gallery to exit the gallery in an orderly and quiet manner. We still have business to conduct in the parliament.
Mr PERRETT: It is simply unsustainable. We need action. Growers and any staff they do have are putting in a massive effort to harvest crops so we can continue to enjoy full grocery aisles.
Queenslanders are feeling the impact now. Weekly fruit and veggie bills are increasing. This labour shortage is directly hitting their hip pocket. Growers and consumers deserve support from this government.
The member for Lockyer raised very legitimate concerns about the labour shortfall in a question to the minister this week. It is disappointing that the minister really said nothing. He made no commitment to help fix the problem and resorted to self-congratulation.
The federal government has stepped up to provide support on this key issue. I thank federal agriculture minister David Littleproud for his leadership in developing the ag visa. The ag visa is welcomed with open arms. It will go a long way to ensuring Pacific labourers can enter Australia and work on farms across our state. Before COVID these jobs were primarily filled by backpackers. The Pacific labourers are stepping up to fill this gap.
I should not have to keep repeating this: the state also has a role to play. Sufficient quarantine spaces are critical to getting these workers in. The state is responsible for that. We know this government has an issue with planning. We know they love to fight the federal government. It is time to stop the bickering with Canberra, stop the posturing and sort out the quarantine mess. It is the state government’s responsibility and more spaces are needed now.
The state also needs to adopt policies that subsidise quarantine costs for seasonal workers like South Australia has done. The state must act. I implore the Premier and her agriculture minister to act on Queensland’s farm labour crisis before it is too late. Queensland’s growers deserve better. They deserve being backed to keep local fruit and veggies on our plates.