Scott Morrison embarks on Queensland blitz

Agriculture visa a bid to shore up flagging support


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Prime Minister Scott Morrison jumps aboard a blue bus to travel through Queensland in a bid to halt the downward trajectory of his government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison jumps aboard a blue bus to travel through Queensland in a bid to halt the downward trajectory of his government.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison is poised to relax visa rules for foreign farm workers as he tries to shore up support in a swag of key Queensland marginal seats.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison is poised to relax visa rules for foreign farm workers as he tries to shore up support in a swag of key Queensland marginal seats.

Mr Morrison will visit the Gold Coast today as he kicks off a road trip throughout the Sunshine State, announcing federal funding for the city's light rail network.

He will also outline a range of visa changes aimed at helping farmers fill critical staff shortages.

Pacific Islanders taking up seasonal work will be able to stay three months longer and the age limit for working holiday visas for some countries will be lifted to 35.

Backpackers will no longer need to leave jobs every six months and will be able to triple the length of their stay if they do extra agricultural work.

"Australians filling Australian jobs is my No.1 priority, but when this isn't possible we need to ensure our farmers aren't left high and dry with rotting crops, especially in the strawberry industry," Mr Morrison said.

The changes come after the Nationals failed to deliver a promised agricultural visa and the prime minister's attempt to force jobless Australians to pick fruit was rejected.

The prime minister fired the stater's gun on his Queensland campaign on Sunday, announcing a multimillion dollar pipeline to secure Townsville's water supply.

Success in the Sunshine State will be critical to his fortunes at the next election, which is due by May.

But his trip got off to a rocky start, with senior Queensland Liberal Steve Ciobo refusing to say whether the federal government's stocks would improve under Mr Morrison's leadership.

"I don't think it serves anyone's purpose and I also don't think, frankly, that Queenslanders or indeed Australians more generally care about what's happened," Mr Ciobo told Sky News.

Senior Labor MP Wayne Swan said the prime minister had a deplorable record in Queensland.

"It is one of savage cuts to health, to education, of cuts to penalty rates," Mr Swan said.

"Mr Morrison's visits to Queensland have been brief and far between ... Sightings of Mr Morrison in Queensland are rarer than sightings of Migaloo the white whale."

Mr Morrison will travel aboard a sky-blue bus emblazoned with a larger-than-life photograph of the prime minister.

He is expected to make stops in the electorates of Logan, Forde and several Brisbane-based seats.

Stops are also planned in Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Gladstone and Mackay, taking in the marginal seats of Capricornia, Flynn and Dawson.

Australian Associated Press

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