The recent leadership reshuffle in New South Wales may have generated headlines, but it cannot distract from the pressing matters facing the state, including summer harvest worker shortages.
We welcome Dominic Perrottet and Paul Toole as Premier and Deputy Premier and look forward to working with them on the issues that matter to farmers. Top of the agenda? Making sure our fruit, vegetables, and grains aren't left to rot.
Local and international travel restrictions have made it difficult for farmers to shore up a workforce in time for critical harvests. The national horticulture sector alone is expected to be at least 16,000 workers short over coming months, posing a threat to productivity and our economic rebound from COVID-19.
As former treasurer, Mr Perrottet will be keenly aware of the COVID debt hanging over our state, while Mr Toole has been instrumental in injecting common sense into the state's approach to COVID-19 testing centres in the regions. Both are aware of the enormous potential in agriculture, and now it's up to them to make sure we don't waste this season.
NSW Farmers has identified immediate and medium-term measures that can be taken to curb the impact of border restrictions on the agriculture sector, including greater flexibility for international workers in entering Australia and financial assistance for businesses in adjusting to COVID-19 workplace requirements.
We have also partnered with the National Farmers' Federation in calling for an on-farm quarantine pilot in NSW. On-farm quarantine would help sidestep the bottleneck caused by hotel quarantine. With NSW taking the lion's share of Australia's returning residents, it makes sense to provide this alternative to the hotel quarantine system.
NSW Farmers hopes to build on the work undertaken by the former NSW Premier and Deputy Premier on successive challenges over recent years, from drought, bushfires and floods to a global pandemic and a mouse plague. Now is the time for the new team to step up and do their part.
- James Jackson, NSW Farmers president
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