Trial to get welfare recipients into farm work labelled a failure

Influential lobby groups have declared a program to encourage welfare recipients to work on farms a failure, putting new pressure on the Morrison Government to create a dedicated agriculture visa to fix labour shortages in the rural sector.

The $27.5m Seasonal Work Incentives Trial has only found placements for 333 people with six months left to go on the two-year program, falling far short of its 7,600 possible places.

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“It has been running for two years now and when you have a take-up rate of 4 to 5 per cent, that would suggest it won’t improve dramatically, so I would have thought it was [a failure],” Ben Rogers, general manager for workplace relations at the National Farmers’ Federation, said.

“It’s been tracking low since the program was launched [in mid-2017] and it’s consistent with the message we hear from our members — that the domestic seasonal workforce isn’t interested in doing harvest work.”

The low uptake rate comes despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison promoting the trial on a trip to South Australia in October, saying unemployed people could have their benefits reduced if they did not take up local jobs.