(Australian Associated Press)
Workers who move to regional Australia to take up farm jobs will receive relocation costs sooner after the federal government tweaked an underperforming scheme.
Critical labour shortages have hurt harvests, with pandemic border closures stopping the usual overseas contingent from entering the country.
Fewer than 1200 people accessed the program since it started in November after being announced in the October federal budget.
Under the scheme, people had to work 120 hours over six weeks to claim up to $6000 in costs for moving to the regions for farm work.
The rebranded AgMove program will allow Australians to access up to $2000, or $650 for temporary visa holders, after 40 hours of agricultural work in a two-week period.
If workers then complete 120 hours over at least four weeks, they will be eligible for up to $6000.
Employment Minister Stuart Robert said the changes would encourage much-needed workers to stay in farm jobs longer.
“Whether you’re a student on university break, on a working holiday or an experienced long-time worker, the Australian government is providing you the flexibility needed to give agricultural jobs a go,” he said.
Federal and state governments’ failure to address labour force issues have been roundly criticised by farmers who didn’t fully cash in on a bumper season.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the revamped program would continue to ensure the sector was the cornerstone of economic recovery.
“Our farmers have put their shoulder to the wheel during COVID and produced bumper crops, prime livestock and the best fibre in the world,” he said.