Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce says significant travel warnings will not exacerbate worker shortages and stop people from coming to Australia.
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Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce dropped into International Dairy Week in Tatura.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Charmayne Allison)

Key points:

  • Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce does not believe travel warnings from the US and EU for Australia will deter international workers
  • This comes as the federal government announced visa rebates for students or backpackers who come to Australia in the next few months
  • Struggling farmers who are facing worker shortages say it is “too little, too late”

The Deputy Prime Minister said people’s “adventurous spirit” would lure them to work in Australia.

He was in the Goulburn Valley on Thursday, attending International Dairy Week in Tatura and visiting Shepparton Foodshare.

The federal government announced yesterday it would provide a fee rebate to students or backpackers who come back to Australia in the next few months.

It is an attempt to help prop up a number of sectors facing worker shortages, including the embattled agriculture industry.

But it comes as the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning for Americans to avoid travel to Australia due to rising COVID numbers.

The European Union, meanwhile, also dropped Australia from its “green list”.

Asked about the new travel warnings, Mr Joyce said he did not believe they would dissuade international students or backpackers.

“I think the adventurous spirit of people when they have the opportunity, when they’re out of school and before other things in their life settle down with family or a serious job, [they] will avail themselves at that period of life to go to where they haven’t been before,” he said.

“People in Europe, I think they’d be curious like they always have been, and Americans.

‘Too little, too late’

For local farmers like Cobram fruit grower Adrian Conti, the visa rebates were “too little, too late”.

Orchardist Adrian Conti stands behind a crate of apples
Orchardist Adrian Conti wants the federal government to listen to farmers’ concerns.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Jackson Peck)

“We’re halfway through our stone fruit season. We’ve only really got until the end of March to harvest our fruit,” he said.

“I don’t think they’ve done a terrible job, but I think the government needs to consult with industry and listen to what we are going through.”

While there had been no positive cases of COVID-19 among Mr Conti’s staff to date, he anticipated the coming weeks would be particularly challenging.

“There are a limited amount of people who can do our work, [and] there is no surplus,” he said.

“Next week will test us all.”

‘If you have to buy a RAT, pay for a RAT’

A man talks totwo women
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce visited Shepparton Foodshare on Thursday to announce $600,000 for a new building for the local service.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Charmayne Allison)

Asked if rapid antigen tests should be free for agriculture workers to keep food and fibre supply chains moving, Mr Joyce disagreed.

“I think people who can’t afford them need supporting,” he said.

“If you have to buy a RAT test, pay for a RAT test.”

Mr Joyce said millions of the tests were currently arriving in Australia.

This comes on the same day the Victorian Premier announced the state government had ordered a further 166 million additional rapid antigen tests; 4.5 million out of its initial 44 million order is expected to arrive this week.

“We’ve got 200 million turning up,” Mr Joyce said.

“We haven’t had the fatalities in Australia that overwhelmingly have been felt in other countries.

“We’ve got a target towards getting back to life, best as normal, getting back to work.

“We’ve got to try and progress this to a place where we understand that we are living with COVID, we have a mild version at the moment, with the Omicron variant.”

One of the last working dairy farms on Ukrainian-controlled territory in the eastern Donbas region is doing everything it can to stay afloat in a place where neither workers nor animals are safe from war.

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