Dairy industry calls for skilled visa reform amid labour shortages


The Australian dairy farmers' peak body says the industry is in crisis and visa reform could be the answer.

The peak body for Australia's dairy farmers is calling on the government to overhaul its skilled migrant visa program to help solve a labour crisis in the industry.

Australian Dairy Farmers says the industry is losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in employee turnover.

President Terry Richardson said: "we don't have that succession [of families] like we did in the past, we're relying more on labour outside".

Mr Richardson said farmers were left in the lurch when the government abolished the 457 visa system earlier this year.

"We have farmers that have opportunity to grow their business but because of labour shortages they're unable to do so."

Some dairy farm workers are now eligible for a Temporary Skills Shortage visa but Australian Dairy Farmers is asking the government to provide longer visas and pathways to permanent residency.

"We've had people from Europe ... the Philippines ... some from Korea, so there's a wide variety of countries from which we source those people," Mr Richardson said.  

But the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) insists the government should focus on training local workers.

Andrea Maksimovic of the ACTU said: "we need to look at what kind of skill shortages we have and what kind of training and education programs we can use to complement them".

While sixth-generation farmer John Fairley of Country Valley dairy farm near Sydney said underlying issues need to be addressed, to make farming a viable career choice for young workers. 

"[There's] just not enough money around to be able to get those debt levels down," he said.

"I'm sure some of the kids would look at that and go, 'no way, I'm out of here'."

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