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Jobless can pick fruit, says senator

Tasmania Senator Eric Abetz believes young unemployed people should take on any task for work.

DARREN LINTON May 27, 2014 3:22am

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Tasmania Senator Eric Abetz has urged young people who find themselves unemployed to pick fruit or work on a dairy to make ends meet.

Defending unpopular changes to Newstart that would force people under the age of 30 to wait six months before receiving unemployment benefits, Senator Abetz said they should be prepared to take on any task.

Speaking of his home state, Senator Abetz said 90 per cent of pickers for the apple harvest were from overseas.

Fruit Growers Victoria general manager John Wilson said in the Goulburn Valley the figure was about 80 per cent and most were backpackers trying to earn an extra year on the their working holiday visa.

Mr Wilson said fruitpicking was seasonal and regional, requiring dislocation, which was not an issue for backpackers who made it part of their travel experience.

‘‘When you take people out of their support networks and shunt them into a district as temporary labour you are going to create other social problems,’’ he said.

A picker doing piece work could make $860 a week before tax.

‘‘We would always welcome Australian workers, however if there is a significant clerical burden involved, the government would be incentifying growers to hire foreign workers,’’ Mr Wilson said.

United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Tyran Jones agreed dairy work was a good option for young workers, even urban dwellers who thought milk came from a carton.

‘‘We’ve had people who have come from quite urban backgrounds who have worked out to be very good at milking cows,’’ he said.

The industry ran its own National Centre for Dairy Education that offered advanced training for employees, but he said people could start at the bottom and learn on the job.

‘‘The biggest factors are being reliable and willing to learn,’’ he said.

‘‘On a dairy farm you can’t to afford to have people not turn up.’’

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