COVID-19 Vaccination priority Agriculture Industry

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (22:50): (1576) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health in the other place and it is on behalf of the VFF, the Victorian Farmers Federation, and indeed the president, Emma Germano. I was speaking with her today.

Vaccine-authorised worker lists certainly include the agricultural sector, which includes but is not limited to farming activities in the form of agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, irrigation, permaculture, apiculture, grains, fibre production, dairy, flower industry, commercial fishing, aquaculture and livestock, to name a few, and the sector needs clarity.

The VFF recently wrote to the Minister and asked the Minister to prioritise vaccination of workers and their employees under the current mandatory rules and is yet to receive a response.

This was some time ago.

On the cusp of 15 October, they are justifiably anxious about having their valid questions answered.

Indeed, an email that Emma Germano sent to members of Parliament today said, and I quote:

Industry groups have been talking to farmers non-stop since the announcement was made and all of us just want to be able to pass on accurate information and support our growers in a timely manner.”

Ms Emma Germano also goes on to talk about a variety of other questions that she would like answered:

  • Will employers be left in the lurch about whether their workers can work?
  • Are employers going to be at risk under industrial relations laws?
  • How do we avoid breaches of worker’s privacy and who can request this personal information of vaccination status? And
  • What types of penalties will be incurred?

Under a cloud of labour shortages and facing peak harvest season, farmers, workers and their families deserve an answer on what is workable in the future.

The action I seek from the Minister is to address all of the questions that the VFF has raised with the Minister and to do so immediately to alleviate the significant stress that the industry is facing and enable our ag sector to continue its vital role in feeding, nourishing and clothing Victorians.