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Fruit rots in north Qld while 20,000 live on Jobseeker

Going to waste – citrus fruit rotting in a north Queensland orchard because of a government-induced labour shortage.
Bob Katter exposes 20,000 jobseekers available to pick fruit soon to rot on the ground

By EDITOR, CAIRNS NEWS

NORTH Queensland MP Bob Katter has sounded the alarm about a massive undersupply of fruit picking workers in his electorate, despite the fact that some 20,000 people in the same region are on the Jobseeker allowance.

Katter has called on the Minister for Agriculture and Acting Minister for Immigration to intervene immediately to help provide an estimated 15,000 farm jobs available in the Cairns hinterland region in a few weeks, during the peak season. Fruit on orchards in the region is already dropping off trees and rotting on the ground.

Katter says there are similar figures elsewhere in Queensland which is prompting the industry to question why their fruit is being left to rot when thousands of idle workers are receiving the dole.

“The Government’s response to Covid-19, whether good or bad, has left us with a serious lack of willing workers in north Queensland which is impacting industries that hold our communities together,” Mr Katter said.

“The Minister needs to explain why fruit is being left to rot on the ground in far north Queensland when there are 20,000 people in the area on Jobseeker allowance.”

Mr Katter has suggested a three-prong approach to alleviate the worker shortage problem:

  • Abandoned, cyclone damaged, resorts to be renovated and used as quarantine hubs for incoming overseas workers.
  • Remove the mandatory quarantine requirements for incoming workers from Samoa and Vanuatu, where there is no Covid-19 transmission.
  • Nationalise the social welfare job allocations, which has been run disastrously since it was privatised.

“The privatisation of human services and job allocation has been disastrous for jobs because it means these people can get away with doing nothing whereas they couldn’t before. There’s no accountability now,” he says.

“Whether it is Mackay mining contractors, farmers in Tully, or Taxi drivers in Cairns or Townsville, the complaints are coming in from everywhere and the Government is left with no alternative – the Department of Human Services needs to be back under government control.”

Mr Katter has spoken to numerous farming organisations that have supported his call for intervention, particularly in lifting the restrictions on South Pacific Islander workers and the reignition of backpackers to fill the jobs.

“I’m told that the Pacific Islands are Covid-free, and north Queensland is Covid-free. So why are these workers being forced to quarantine here at the cost of the farmer?

“The farmers I have spoken to are simply asking for the restrictions on South Pacific Islanders to be lifted like with New Zealand which allows a reliable coming and going of the workers.

“Under normal circumstances, the backpackers comprise 50 per cent of the fruit pickers in north Queensland which is a region that produces 20 per cent of Australia’s fruit and vegetable supply. But due to border closures, the number of backpackers available is dwindling by the week.”

Contact: Hon Bob Katter MP, Federal Member for Kennedy

Canberra | Phone: 02 6277 4978 | Fax: 02 6277 8558 |

Mount Isa | Phone: 07 4743 3534 | Fax: 07 4743 0189 |

Innisfail | Phone: 07 4061 6066 | Fax: 07 4061 6566 | Freecall 1300 301 942|