MEDIA RELEASE - Web site crashes: Problems plague Government's online agriculture worker permit

NSW Labor has slammed the State Government for its botched rollout of the agriculture worker permit website, which has been plagued with problems and won’t be fully functional until at least Tuesday morning. Under changes announced last Wednesday, agriculture businesses across NSW have been trying to bring key employees over the border from Victoria. The Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Jenny Aitchison said the system has been ineffective and that on Friday, the Government’s website was draft-only and included outdated information about the permit process. Significant work was supposed to happen on the weekend, but the system crashed again and the Government temporarily changed the application process until today (Tuesday, 29 September), creating even more confusion. Ms Aitchison said a Hunter Valley firm applied weeks ago for a permit for a critical employee to travel from the COVID-free town of Sale in Victoria to Maitland, using a company car that needed to be returned for farm work. On Friday the company received an email to advise the application had been denied. After their online attempts failed again on Friday due to system errors, applicants told Ms Aitchison they would wait until Monday in the hope the IT issues would be resolved. Now it appears that won’t be until today at the earliest. Ms Aitchison said: “When the Government makes an announcement, farmers and agriculture businesses shouldn’t have to wait a week for them to implement it. The Agriculture Workers’ Code was announced by National Cabinet more than three weeks ago." “Last week the NSW Government made a rosy announcement but rolled out a half-baked process," Ms Aitchison said.

“It’s not good enough. A $16 billion industry is at risk and the Government must get this right.” Ms Aitchison called on the Minister for Agriculture to urgently fix the site to ensure the application process is as simple and streamlined as possible. “They really need to get their heads together and sort this out. Farmers and Agribusinesses are losing patience. The risk is they just give up, or worse, they won’t have enough workers for harvest," she said. “This could have a devastating impact on agriculture and the thousands of people who rely on it for jobs and their economic activity.” [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]