WARRNAMBOOL mayor Jactina Ermacora has told senior Coalition policy makers that urgent reforms were needed to help young farmers and migrant workers in regional areas.
At a Melbourne meeting where industry, education and community leaders met federal MPs Greg Hunt and Tony Smith on Friday, Cr Ermacora outlined key points to improve regional productivity.
“The suggestions I put to them came out of recent discussions by south-west leaders with the Global Foundation and from local industry delegates,” Cr Ermacora told The Standard.
“I said there needed to be better visas suitable for people who work at industries such as Midfield abattoir in Warrnambool to allow them to settle into the local community.
“At the moment workers are on a six-month rotation.
“More suitable visas would also allow Midfield to have a more settled staff.
“It was a terrific opportunity to go into bat for the regions.
“I will also be raising the issues with government leaders as well.”
Cr Ermacora proposed a legislative change similar to one adopted in New Zealand to make it easier for sharefarmers to purchase a farm.
“It provides a pathway into farming,” she said.
Several Chinese slaughtermen at Midfield face deportation because they failed to pass English language tests.
Their fate awaits a review by federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.
Meanwhile, federal minister Simon Crean has denied Opposition claims that the $1 billion Regional Development Australia Fund funded from the mining resources tax was frozen.
“What we’ve done is say we need a stocktake, assess our priorities and move forward accordingly,” he said.
Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said it showed the government was trying to find cash to pay for its spending.
“This freezing of funding is yet again more evidence of a government in crisis and unfortunately it is at the expense of rural and regional communities,” he said.