Littleproud turns the heat up on Labor to support ag visa

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Cally DupeCountryman
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud wants Labor to support a proposed agriculture visa.
Camera IconFederal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud wants Labor to support a proposed agriculture visa. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is ratcheting up calls for Labor to support the nation’s new agriculture visa, claiming their public support would make bilateral discussions easier.

Mr Littleproud issued a damning statement this week questioning whether Labor would support the visa or continue to be “led around the paddock” by “union bosses”.

He said Labor’s public support of the visa would make bilateral discussions easier by giving countries certainty that a Labor government wouldn’t abolish the program.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has been in discussions with South East Asian nations to sign up to the scheme but not a single country has signed up — with the Philippines formally withdrawing from discussions last month.

Mr Littleproud said the Morrison government had promised to prioritise visa ­negotiations in January and the Nationals expected results before the election.

He claimed Labor was hiding in the “shadows” of the Australian Workers Union and threatening the nation’s food security.

“Farmers won’t plant a crop if they can’t pick it, so if they don’t have certainty, it will reduce supply and push prices up at the checkout,” he said.

“If Anthony Albanese doesn’t support the ag visa, he will be increasing cost of living pressures on households across the country.

“Without access to an agricultural workforce, Australia will be poorer and the world will be without a reliable source of food and fibre.”

The visa was announced with much fanfare on October 1 after trade negotiations with the UK led Canberra to remove a requirement for British backpackers working on farms to extend their visas.

Before the pandemic, Australian farmers relied on the labour of up to 10,000 backpackers from the UK every year — a labour force Mr Littleproud said would need to be replaced.

It was expected to be up and running by Christmas last year.

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