Agriculture Industry, Labour; Timber Industry
Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (2.00 pm): There is a growing gap between farm labour supply and
demand. I have met farmers and representative groups from across the state, including: Ayr, Bowen, Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley. I have seen firsthand the impacts of labour shortages on farms of all sizes. The government has delivered little in the way of solutions other than finger-pointing at Canberra and playing political games. We have seen grand announcements of trial programs that have failed to deliver. Minister Littleproud has done everything he needs to do.
The Pacific Islands partnership program provides sufficient labour supply, with 26,000 available workers. Most farmers have a limited workforce which needs to expand three to fourfold when
harvesting. Thousands of workers are needed across the state now. State quarantine arrangements
are onerous and limited by caps. Queensland Country Life reports that only 10 Pacific Islands workers are accepted each week into hotel. The spaces are shared between all growers in Queensland. Even when the government purports to do things it is not enough. It acts too slowly. Last week’s announced extension of the Seasonal Worker Program requires on-farm quarantine. It favours large enterprises that can quarantine on their property. Small to medium farms cannot support it if they do not have facilities. Growcom described it as an equity of access issue. Once again the little guys will miss out.
Gympie has many small to medium farms which cannot provide on-farm quarantining.
Labour shortages leave crops unharvested. If farmers cannot get labour they will not plant crops.
Shortages are already being factored into plantings. Some have already reduced plantings because they are not confident they will have a workforce. It means price rises for consumers at our local fruit and veggie shops and supermarkets. Last Friday national cabinet agreed to a program where Pacific workers can quarantine in their country before departure. It will avoid taking up local quarantine spaces and needing on-farm quarantine. South Australia has already signed on. Queensland must join now to access available workers.
Almost 18 months ago the Premier announced a new timber action plan and promised a native
hardwood timber advisory panel to work with industry on long-term wood supply options. The minister has still not appointed members to the panel. The timber industry has major supply issues, with native whole log exports disadvantaging our local mills. The potential closure of mills will cost businesses and impact building supplies and jobs. The South-East Queensland Forest Agreement has failed. The farm forestry plantation plan promised by Beattie in 1989 never materialised. There are now reports that 8,000 ironwood trees, including sacred and habitat trees, have been logged in Cape York with no regard to their age, size or cultural significance. This is causing great distress for traditional owners. The industry needs action now.