Will Labor’s PALM scheme changes increase the price of groceries?

NATIONALS leader David Littleproud is warning Labor’s changes to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme will push up the cost of groceries even further.

The PALM scheme allows eligible Australian businesses to hire workers from nine Pacific islands and Timor-Leste when there are not enough local workers available.

Through the PALM scheme, eligible businesses can recruit workers for seasonal jobs for up to nine months or for longer-term roles for between one and four years in unskilled, low-skilled and semi-skilled positions.

The scheme currently provides jobs to more than 37,700 Pacific and Timor-Leste workers (as at 31 March 2023).

Under recent changes to the scheme, all seasonal workers must be provided with a minimum average of 30 hours of work a week for the duration of their employment in Australia.

Mr Littleproud said families would be forced to pay more for their food at the check-out, after Australian farmers inevitably passed on their increased costs to make ends meet.

“Labor’s cost-of-living crisis is only going to get worse as families struggle to pay for their food,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Common sense tells you near-impossible new rules and increased costs on our farmers created by Labor will result in increased costs on food for families.”

Mr Littleproud said the union-backed reforms could see many farmers now exit the PALM scheme, with farmers also struggling to find workers.

“The National Farmers’ Federation and the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia previously warned at Labor’s Jobs and Skills Summit that agriculture requires an additional 172,000 workers to get food from paddock to port or plate.

“The PALM scheme has the potential of just 42,000 workers.

“It is now becoming even more unattractive for farmers to sign up to the PALM scheme.

“At the same time, Labor is refusing to reinstate the Agriculture Visa, which was designed by the former Coalition Government to supplement the PALM scheme.

“When supply goes down, prices go up, which is why farmers are currently planting less and Australians continue to pay more for food.”

Federal Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt has been approached for comment.

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