Primary Industries Ministers’ Meeting

Communique—14 April 2020

Primary Industries Ministers discuss COVID-19

Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers met via teleconference today to discuss COVID-19 issues impacting the agriculture sector. Ministers focused on implementing agricultural workforce mobility in line with the decisions taken by National Cabinet on 9 April.

Workforce mobility

Ministers noted the decision of the National Cabinet on 9 April in relation to measures required to ensure that Australian farmers can continue to access a sufficient workforce to meet agricultural requirements. Ministers noted that they have been tasked with overseeing and coordinating implementation of the National Cabinet decision and reporting back.

Ministers noted the announcements made by the Commonwealth over recent weeks regarding arrangements for visa holders to stay and work in Australia. The Commonwealth Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Services, the Hon David Littleproud MP, provided an additional update on work completed – and underway – to implement these changes at the national level.

The President of the National Farmers’ Federation, Ms Fiona Simson, joined the meeting to provide an update on information about issues being raised by industry. Ms Simson noted availability of labour remains important and that announcements by governments on this issue had been welcomed. In addition, the National Farmers’ Federation noted some industries are seeing excess production and they are working to ensure these products are distributed to charities.

Ministers also heard from Senior Agriculture Industry Engagement Officer, Mark Tucker, about opportunities for industry to meet growing overseas demand for some products as well as changing domestic demand.

State and Territory Ministers provided updates on implementation within each of their jurisdictions. Jurisdictions will manage requirements for self-isolation and social distancing consistent with general principles agreed through National Cabinet in line with the circumstances and health risks of each jurisdiction. State and Territory Governments acknowledged their responsibilities for ensuring the appropriate health measures were in place to protect communities from COVID-19.

Ministers agreed that work towards implementation will continue, with Minister Littleproud to prepare an update for National Cabinet at the end of this week.

Future discussions

Ministers agreed to meet again next week.