Australia-UK FTA to benefit red meat market, labour access

by Jonathan Adams

The signing of the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement has met strong support from the Australian red meat and shearing industries

Red meat market access and rural labour benefits are expected to flow from the virtual signing of the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement today.

The signing of the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan and the UK Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan has met strong support from the Australian red meat and shearing industries.

As Australian sheep producers face a difficult flystrike season complicated by a shortage of shearers and shed staff, Mr Tehan said the agreement will allow young Australians up to the age of 35 to work and study in the UK for up to three years and obviously vice versa for young Brits, they will be able to come here to Australia and work for three years.

Mr Tehan told ABC news today that more than 99 percent of Australian goods get immediate duty-free access into the UK and it is exactly the same for UK goods coming into Australia.

The ‘incredibly comprehensive’ agreement would give access into the UK market for Australia’s sheep meat, beef, dairy and rice producers, he said.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford said the sector would appreciate any opportunity to have access to skilled workers from the UK.

We missed out in recent years while New Zealand has had access to those workers, he said.

The only way we have been able to do it has been through a 457 visa or an equivalent which can take up to nine months to process and can cost up to $5000 when you get an immigration agent involved, so it’s been prohibitive, he said.

We had some members who went through those processes and still weren’t successful, so there was never easy access to those workers, he said. So any change is certainly welcome and applauded, especially at this time of year.

Mr Letchford said the shearer shortage issues are only getting worse while the flock grows.

Interstate border crossings for vaccinated workers are now possible, but the industry is on tenterhooks about the potential impact of the Omicron COVID variant closing borders.

We’re hoping that that will not be the case and it remains business as usual with testing and maintenance of COVIDSafe plans in our workplaces.

The refusal of up to 10 percent of the shearing industry workforce to get vaccinated is also still a problem, he said.

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