Like many agricultural commodities in Australia, dairy has an acute skilled labour shortage. Although the Australian dairy industry always gives precedence
to employing Australian workers, enabling farmers to access skilled overseas workers is a positive way of addressing the gap when suitable domestic
labour is not available.
The industry continues to assist farmers in gaining better access to overseas labour, through working to streamline the visa application processes for
both farmers and workers. Further work is required by Government in this area to fully address the scope of this issue.
On 30 April 2015, the Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) lodged its submission to the Senate Education and Employment committee’s review into the impact of Australia’s temporary work visa programs on Australia’s labour market and on the temporary work visa holders.
Issues such as the need for improved alignment of the Australian Qualifications Framework and the skill classifications used by the Department of Immigration
and Border Protection, as well as the extension of 417 and 462 visas from six to 12 months, were key recommendations put forward by the ADIC.
In the submission, the ADIC highlighted the industry’s strong commitment to attracting, developing and retaining a highly skilled domestic workforce through
a range of initiatives, including the National Centre for Dairy Education (NCDE), which provides high quality education and training opportunities
for people interested in developing a career in dairy.
The Australian dairy industry wholeheartedly supports fair and equal treatment of foreign workers. Recently, ABC’s investigative journalism programFour Cornersfeatured
the mistreatment of migrant workers from Asia and Europe on a few poultry and horticulture farms in Australia. Such behaviour is not condoned by the
ADIC and runs counter to the industry’s efforts to ensure that dairy farmers are responsible for their employment practices, including fair workplace
relations and migration laws.
The Employment Starter Kit initiative (ESKi), which was developed by Dairy Australia
in conjunction with Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF), is an example of this. The ESKi has been circulated to over 1,500 dairy farmers across Australia,
assisting them in their understanding of Australia’s legal employment requirements, as well as offering information on how to improve working environments
for both employees and employers.