May 03, 2018
It isn’t easy being a dairy farmer. A lot of people think we just milk cows all day, but the reality is farmers need a wide range of skills to manage a sustainable farm business.
In fact, the National Centre for Dairy Education estimated that dairy farmers need over 170 different skills to run a successful farm business.
Apart from milking, farmers have to feed livestock, make hay and silage, operate machinery, protect waterways, manage milk quality assurance and supervise staff.
It really is a skilled profession, and one that rarely gets the credit it deserves. This is underscored by the crippling skills shortage that the industry continues to face.
To this end, we rely on our political representatives to address the problem. Unfortunately, there is still a misapprehension from some in Canberra that farming is an unskilled industry which should be able to source labour from the pool of unemployed in regional areas.
Reality again is different. The local labour just doesn’t exist, and many dairy employers rely on skilled migrants brought to Australia under subclass 457 visas to fill core on-farm roles. Many farmers even consider overseas workers to be integral to their long-term business strategy.
The dairy industry has found the 457 visa very useful. It has enabled us to recruit skilled workers from overseas for farm management roles. And it has also given these workers a pathway to permanent residency. Everybody wins.
We were struck a blow when the 457 visa was abolished and replaced from March this year by the Temporary Skill Shortage visa, a scheme that operates in two streams – for short-term labour for up to two years with the option of a two-year renewal, and for medium-term labour for up to four years. Only the second stream offers the possibility of permanent residency.
Industries eligible under each stream is determined by the Regional Occupations List. Dairy farming is currently listed as a short-term skill, which will only hamper our ability to use the scheme because the prospect of permanent residency is an important factor in attracting skilled overseas workers.
It should be clear to even casual onlookers that agricultural industries are not just facing a “temporary” skills shortage. This is a problem we have been battling for years and one that will only grow worse unless it is addressed now.
It is strange that dairy farming has remained on the Regional Occupations List yet has not been placed on the Medium Labour TSS.
One concern is that dairy farming could be wiped from the list entirely when the list is reviewed in July. We can’t let that happen and advocates in the industry – including Australian Dairy Farmers and Dairy Australia – are working to ensure farmers’ voices remain strong on this issue.
It is vital that while the skills shortage persists, dairy farmers remain on the Regional Occupations List and that the federal Government take immediate action to allow skilled overseas workers to gain longer visas and a pathway to permanent residency.
Given the size of the dairy industry it will take considerable time to correct the documented skills shortage with suitably qualified Australian workers.
In the meantime, dairy farmers will continue to struggle to staff their businesses with skilled workers and need to have reliable access to skilled overseas workers.
Let’s not forget that farmers are not the only people who stand to benefit from allowing skilled overseas workers opportunities in Australia. A recent report into the rural workforce found that immigrant farmers not only fill labour shortages, but they also bring with them new technological insights gained overseas to apply to Australian farming, providing a valuable contribution to regional Australia.
As the Regional Occupations List comes under review, this insight hopefully provides our decision-makers with food for thought and an urgent lifeline to an industry that still faces a critical shortage of skilled labour.
Apr 21, 2017
Dairy is a highly dynamic industry offering lots of opportunities for career growth and development. However, it is no secret that we have domestic labour shortages in regional and rural areas.
Our preference is always to hire Australian workers, but there are not always enough experienced farmhands to meet the demand of our industry. This is despite more than a decade of offering training courses and pathway programs for Australian workers to enter the dairy industry.
ADF has continued to lobby the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) for regulation amendments to visas allowing overseas workers to fill vital on-farm and off-farm roles.
This week, the Government announced that the 457 Temporary Work visa will be abolished and replaced with the completely new Temporary Skill Shortage visa by March 2018. ADF is concerned with the changes and is seeking clarification on many aspects from the DIPB.
We have now been advised that the current visa changes will have no impact on the Dairy Industry Labour Agreement, which allows dairy farmers to recruit senior farm hands. We have been assured that:
- our existing labour agreements remaining in effect;
- our existing visa holders not impacted unless they apply for another visa impacted by the changes outside of the labour agreement programme; or
- new nominations that we intend to lodge/related visa applications are not impacted – including applications for occupations which have been ‘removed’ from the standard programme or are now subject to a caveat in the standard programme but remain specified in our agreement.
We also understand that under these changes, which come into effect immediately:
- dairy cattle farmers are included on the short-term skilled occupation list and only able to apply for a 2-year visa;
- 2-year visas can only be renewed once, which will lead to an increase in administrative burden and red tape on farmers looking to access these new
- dairy, like other agricultural commodities is not included on the medium to long term strategic skilled occupation list to access 4-year visas; and
- changes have been made to the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa and to the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) visa.
We are still in the process of gaining clarification on what will happen to current visa applicants who are waiting on approvals and the additional occupations available to support regional employers.
ADF supports the employment of overseas workers to fill vital on-farm roles. We will continue to liaise with government to ensure dairy farmers that need to employ overseas staff can do so.
Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer
Feb 05, 2016
Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) has joined the National Farmers Federation (NFF) in calling for the Federal Government to halt the proposed backpacker tax.
As part of the 2015 Federal Budget the government announced that from 1 July 2016 all working holiday makers will be taxed at a rate of 32.5 per cent on all income.
ADF President Simone Jolliffe said that dairy farmers rely on backpackers for vital on-farm roles which cannot be filled locally or to complement their existing workforce during peak times.
“The dairy industry is suffering a skilled labour shortage which means that we need overseas workers, such as backpackers, when we cannot find suitable local staff,” Ms Jolliffe said.
“If this tax is brought in as it currently stands, backpackers may choose to travel to other countries such as New Zealand.”
“This would be damaging to the dairy industry, regional communities and the tourism industry, as well as the broader economy.”
Backpackers currently earn, on average, about $15,000 while in Australia, and may be eligible to claim the tax-free threshold.
“ADF believes it is fair and reasonable for backpackers to pay some tax, but 32.5c is excessive,” Ms Jolliffe said.
“We are supporting NFF’s position that 19 per cent, achieved through deactivation of the tax-free threshold, is fairer to both backpackers and the agricultural industry which relies on them.”
We encourage everyone who understands the significant contribution backpackers make to agriculture to support NFF’s campaign by signing an online petition.
To join the petition, go to https://www.change.org/p/australian-government-stop-the-backpacker-tax
Aug 18, 2015
Under the Dairy Industry Template Labour Agreement, finalised with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection on 17 July 2015, dairy farmers are now able to recruit senior farmhands from overseas on 457 Visas as well as farm managers.
Eligibility for the 457 visa was previously restricted to farm managers which the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) recognises as skill level 1. Feedback indicated however that many farm employers were seeking workers with qualifications one level under management – capable of organising day-to-day operations but not necessarily making major decisions.
The Australian dairy industry is in a position to grow substantially over the next decade to meet the burgeoning demand across Asia for high quality, safe dairy products. Yet the industry’s capacity to increase production is fundamentally constrained by a chronic shortage of skilled labour in the Australian pool.
Recognising this, in 2014 Dairy Australia, in collaboration with Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) approached the Department of Immigration with the Dairy Industry Labour Agreement Template. The agreement is designed to give farmers more options when seeking labour by expanding the eligibility criteria for 457 visas and reducing paperwork.
Chair of ADF Policy Advisory Group in the People and Human Capacity space, John Versteden said the agreement provides another option for farmers to fill the short term skills gap for farmhands in Australian dairy.
“The dairy industry’s most valuable asset is the people who work in it, which is why it is important to commit to attracting, retaining and developing the most skilled labour,” Mr Versteden said.
“While our preference is always to hire Australian workers, there are not enough experienced, available farmhands to meet the demand in a growing industry.”
The industry has invested heavily in training and upskilling its workforce, including via certificate and diploma courses offered through the National Dairy Education Centre (NCDE) since 2006. Although student numbers are steadily growing, it is still not enough to meet dairy’s growing demand for skilled workers as production scales up to meet growing export demand.
Senior farmhands recruited under the labour agreement must have Certificate III or equivalent qualifications in addition to at least three years of recent and relevant experience, or alternatively five years of recent and relevant experience.
You can find further information on the Dairy Industry Labour Agreement Template via http://www.thepeopleindairy.org.au/engagement-reward/contracts-and-agreements.htm