Cherry picking anyone? MP’s plan for grey nomads

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Could retirees travelling around Australia be the solution to labour shortages on farms?

That’s an idea being put to the Federal Government, which is in the process of considering changes to visas to allow farmers to bring in foreign workers to help pick crops.

The idea of including retirees has been floated by Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie in the wake of a plea for help from an Adelaide Hills cherry farmer. The delicate crop needs to be hand-picked according to a tight timeframe, with 300 people required for a six-to-eight week period, Ms Sharkie told ABC radio.

She saw retirees as a possible solution.

“Known as the grey nomads, they would love to be involved in this work,” she said. “We know we have thousands of older Australians travelling through regional Australia every year,and if there was the opportunity, without losing the pension and being a pair of stable hands on farms, I think that could be a win-win situation.”

She has put the idea to Jobs Minister Kelly O’Dwyer.

The concept could be an extension of a government trial that allows people on unemployment benefits to earn up to $5000 working on farms without losing their benefits.

The Government’s More Choices for a Longer Life package delivered in the 2018 Federal Budget included an expansion of the Pension Work Bonus from 1 July 2019, with $300 per fortnight to be excluded from the income test instead of $250.

This is in addition to the income-free threshold, which is currently $300 a fortnight (combined) for a pensioner couple.

Would you consider tailoring your travels to include some seasonal farm work?

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Written by Janelle Ward


Total Comments: 32
  1. 0

    Good idea. Firstly some people might spend their time productively on farms and spending their money in rural areas. Secondly they would not splurge their savings on cruises and spend their dollars overseas and saving Australia some foreign exchange. Might even do away with the $5000 limit as long as the money is earned through working on farms.

    • 0

      Rubbish. This is just another way of providing farmers with all but free labour Jim. This lot cry poor all the time. Never changes.
      The picking industry is, from what I understand, based on piecework. That means you get paid for what you pick. Fair enough but a significant number of farmers milk the workers with unrealistic quotas and then have the hide to often charge for accommodation which an aboriginal would not stay in plus food.
      This is the latest scam to stop governments from enforcing a fair pay scheme. Now farmers are after retirees.

  2. 0

    If physically able to do this it is a great idea. I agree with Cowboy Jim that it is far better to spend time in Australia especially in rural areas to help the economy in that sector. Going to Bali, cruising, etc does nothing for the Australian economy. People argue that it is cheaper to go overseas but we cannot afford to go overseas but we do manage a road trip to see the grandkids.

  3. 0

    In theory. There are cherry growers who allow people to pick and buy.. Extend this idea to orange growers. They often have to throe away good oranges The Liberal want send new migrants to country regions so therer would be plenty o work for them too

  4. 0

    “The delicate crop needs to be hand-picked according to a tight time-frame”
    That’s no easy picking for retirees. Tight frame means, doing the job laboriously fast. Then, it’s a question over how much one will earn for slaving to a tight time-frame and for how many hours per day? Workers Comp? Accommodation? We have read stories many times how farm fruit pickers are taken advantage of financially and paid a pittance. Hmmm?

    • 0

      No one is suggesting this is a mandatory requirement for grey nomads HS. Just an idea that some may be interested in taking up as long as their pensions remain unaffected.

      Accommodation is not an issue since they would have their own vans, they could choose their own hours (by negotiation), they would be paid the same rates as anyone else and could send the ‘young ones’ up the ladders to higher fruit. And it would only last for around 6-8 weeks in picking season. What’s the problem?

      The only real issue you raise is that of workers comp but then that is an issue for anyone working anywhere over the age of 65!

    • 0

      KSS-If they own their own vans they don’t need that kind of back-breaking work for a pittance. They can’t negotiate hours because they would be contracted to payment for the weight and quantity they pick. The problem is the hard work for shit financial reward.

    • 0

      Seems pretty much the problem HS.

      The bosses will pay themselves millions and executives well but hard, dirty work is paid a pittance because supposedly anyone can break their bodies doing it for little reward.

      Then we have the issue of not enough reliable and cheap energy to allow processing the harvest into preserves and various processed foods that would allow the food to be sold for more.

      We know whose to blame for that stuff up too.

  5. 0

    If people had accommodation in caravan or mobile home and it didn’t create added angst with Centrelink.

    Centrelink is such a failure now that anything you do which means having to deal with them is painful. I don’t have to but the horror stories I’ve been told defy belief.

    Companies can’t pay decent wages anymore that allow a worker to live comfortably in one of the most expensive countries on the planet so obviously the answer is government sponsored wages.

    Total stuff up is’t it.

    I travel overseas because of the diversity and the cost savings. If you can spend a night in New York or Chicago for the price of a night in a motel in whoop whoop why wouldn’t you?

    And cruises can be had for around half the price a night for a hotel room in Sydney and include all travel, entertainment and meals.

    Australian hospitality industry is fast pricing itself out of business.

    • 0

      You’ve got a point there Rae.

      I am about to do a bike tour in India for 3 weeks at a cost of about $3500 (not including flights) which includes airport transfers, good hotels, meals, support and guides. Recently I was looking at spending 3-4 days at Alice Springs and Uluru only to be faced with prices of around $5000+ flights extra!

      A simple train ride on the Indian Pacific would cost $2611 (I just checked) and that’s not even from Brisbane! For that I could fly to London return and still have change!

    • 0

      Do have a lovely time KSS and don’t drink the water haha.

      India will be amazing. So much colour and sound and life.

      I recently had a night in Sydney at $528 at the Hyatt. Most I’ve paid anywhere and we paid the Platinum fare of $4500 each for the three night Indian Pacific. It was fabulous. But expensive in world prices.

      I’ve travelled much cheaper with Amtrak though.

      I recommend the trip from San Fransisco to Chicago which is amazing and a fraction of the Australian fares.

    • 0

      I spent 2 days on the Rocky Mountaineer in Canada and it was one of the worst train trips I have ever been on. Seats were uncomfortable and the food was not eatable at all. Track was overgrown and train went way too fast to see anything. No wonder one good have as much booze as they wanted.

    • 0

      Thanks Og we did wonder if it was worth the effort to take the Rocky across Canada.

    • 0

      Thanks Rae.Will do!

  6. 0

    Sounds like a lot of fun for a few hours a day and I could live in luxury in my home away from home as well as earning some extra spending money.

    Where do I apply?

  7. 0

    It may be a good idea some of the few that have come from this mob attempting to run this country.Rae you are correct about C/L.I just had a Tribunal over turn a ruling made by them so never take their word for any thing.

    • 0

      Not learning the rules to play the game Floss?

    • 0

      Do they have rules that a) stay the same or b) are known by anyone including their workers.

      Seems like a self service system built on a dodgy platform, where one mistake on the keyboard creates havoc, that is used by millions every fortnight because business can’t afford their workers as Australian prices are far too high.

      That taxpayers have to prop up wage earners is clearly unsustainable.

      A great big mess.

  8. 0

    Fruit picking is too hard for most of the elderly as it can involve daylight to twilight work and the rules of Centrelink would remove their part pension as soon as they earned a few dollars. Possibly a good idea for self funded very healthy and active over 65s.
    Instead of creating yet another class of visa for overseas workers to come here for fruit picking why not give the opportunity to our own Australian unemployed youngsters.
    One of the problems seems to be the “middlemen” created as go betweens for overseas workers and helps with the visa, who then finds the jobs for the overseas workers and the farmers can only employ them through that middleman.
    This is slowly but surely destroying any hope of our youth who want to work in the country areas rather than the cities, many would like the chance to follow the fruit picking round the country but cannot as they are not eligible.

    • 0

      It would be the healthy and active that are the grey nomads AutumnOz. The others wouldn’t have the strength to pack up the van!

      And it has nothing to do with the young. They don’t want to pick fruit which is the very reason why backpackers are necessary in the first place. The young on Centrelink payments are so cosseted they refuse to go to pick fruit. So unless you are happy to see it rotting on the trees, having anyone willing to do the job is a good thing no matter their age or where they come from.

    • 0

      KSS if the Centrelink benefits were not so hard to sort out I suggest our young would pick fruit. Silly to stuff up your life for months earning a few hundred dollars.

      Allow the unemployed to earn extra without penalty and they might. It would also depend on how much it cost for travel, accommodation and food.

      Unfortunately workers can’t deduct costs like business owners can for some strange and inequitable reason.

    • 0

      Young Australians are not the slightest bit interested in picking fruit. They refuse point blank to do those jobs. Therein lies your problem.

      And there is no point forcing them to do it. They would just sabotage the work and the farmer would lose even more.

      Until we learn to pay people properly, and provide decent working conditions, we will always have this problem. There has been scandal after scandal about working conditions in the fruit and veg picking industry. That says it all. What might have worked 50 years ago will never work today. End of discussion.

  9. 0

    I couldn’t make the basic wage cherry picking when I was young, what good would it be now.

    Biggest problem is that you have to finish one tree before moving on to the next, so the last few cherries are a lot of work for not much weight in cherries.

    Buying a big camper van and travelling around Australia is a good way to reduce money in the bank, if there is too much to get age pension.

  10. 0

    Reading some of this crap i’m bloody glad some of you people are not MP’s! You’d make fine dictators some of you. RETIREMENT is something a person EARNS from working all their life. I see talk of our dollar going overseas and that being a problem get a life you fools. Do you know anything about this? Do you know just HOW MUCH of our precious dollar is sent home by refugees to help their families? A lot of them receiving Centrelink benefits, that is taxpayers money some of it paid by these same retirees?
    What about floating the idea and making LAW, ALL refugees work on these farms and HELPZ this country and its economy prior to being allowed to run the streets of places like Melbourne, cause chaos and scare the living crap out of the elderly people who worked hard to make this country great, along with all the armed forces past and present!
    If refugees and do gooders dislike the idea of showing respect and helping the workers (farmers etc) of this great nation then they can be deported to another nation that will appreciate their disruption of society and bleeding the people dry.
    Just an idea for a new generation of tax payers and workers, even though politically incorrect to mention such terrible things

    • 0

      HDRider – you calling me a dictator? With your ideas you would make a perfect Hitler. “We have ways to make you conform – you work on farms and not roam Melbourne streets”.
      I do agree with you and that makes me a fellow dictator I suppose. Since that is not possible let the pensioners (grey nomads) earn a bit extra money as the city dwellers roaming the streets will never get out in the bush never mind picking a few fruit.

    • 0

      That’s why we need a welfare card for all those on welfare ASAP so the money can oly be spent in Australia.

    • 0

      OK Old Geezer – bring one in as it won’t make any difference to me. My expenses are in line with my part pension, shall use the other account for the frivolous stuff, eh?
      Went up north where the card is operating, they offered me the card to buy groceries as long as I give them the cash – minus 20% to make it worth my while and they can get whatever they want. With a photo on the cards you might get your wish, OG, but without it it’s treated as cash with deductions.

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