WA Agricultural Minister Allannah Mactiernan has announced the government will try to fill the labour shortage in time for this season's harvest.
The WA Government says solving the labour shortage in time for this season's harvest is paramount and is checking out Vanuatu workers in NT quarantine.
A second planeload of 160 seasonal workers from Vanuatu touched down in Darwin this week, many of them destined for the Katherine mango harvest.
The minister said, based on health advice, that the WA government would support the agricultural and horticultural industry by joining the federal government's Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme.
She said they would be joining the schemes with strict conditions to protect the health and safety of WA residents.
VegetablesWA last week warned of a potential food shortage if farmers did not get enough workers.
The new measures will initially focus on recruiting Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme workers that have already quarantined in the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory.
The State Government is in discussions with the Northern Territory and Federal Governments on bringing new Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme workers into the country and utilising quarantine facilities in the Northern Territory before being allowed to enter Western Australia.
South West MLC and shadow agricultural minister Dr Steve Thomas said the announcement was good news but something he called for a couple of months ago.
"I'm pleased the government have finally come to the table on this, I called for this in August and it was rejected, now they have come kicking and screaming," he said.
Dr Thomas said the problem now was that negotiations would delay workers getting here and the lag time was already damaging the sector.
"Some crops have already been ploughed, some farmers have reduced the amount they have planted because they don't know if they will get workers or not," he said.
"We will still see an increase in food prices as it will be weeks or months before we see pickers arriving in WA."
The state government have continued to blame the Commonwealth for its nation-wide international border closure in cutting off the supply of working holiday makers coming to WA for harvest work.
Ms Mactiernan said the Commonwealth had not been forthcoming in incentivising those on JobSeeker payments into agricultural work.
"So the state government is moving to ensure WA growers have another tool at their disposal to fill labour shortages," she said.
However, Dr Thomas said it was absolute nonsense for the state to blaming the federal government.
"It is a state issue and should be up to the state to solve it," he said.
"They are trying to shift the blame on their own incompetence."
The Nationals WA say the agriculture minister continues to fail the state's farmers and growers with her latest half-baked attempt to solve the agriculture sector's acute workforce shortages.
Leader Mia Davies said the government's plan to borrow overseas workers lured to the Northern Territory was too little, too late for WA's agricultural and horticultural industries.
"Pinching a couple of hundred of labourers after the Northern Territory and Federal Government have done the heavy lifting to bring them into the country just doesn't cut it," she said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government is hoping to finalise a deal today to quarantine a swag of returning Aussie travellers at Howard Springs.
As Canberra lifts inbound passenger number limits, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner is due to confirm the Howard Springs quarantine facility will be used for up to 1000 returning travellers each month.
As the need for domestic COVID-19 quarantine eases, capacity is growing, a federal government spokesperson said.
"The Morrison government has been working with the NT government to finalise arrangements to use Howard Springs for quarantine to enable more Australians to return from overseas."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce special flights to repatriate more than 29,000 Australians, stranded overseas by the pandemic, and keen to get home.
More details were expected at Friday's national cabinet meeting of state and territory leaders, but the virtual gathering has been postponed until next week.
"We've been working now for some months as we've been getting more and more Australians home, particularly those in vulnerable situations," Mr Morrison told reporters in Cairns on Thursday.
Flights from London and India are expected to be among the first to bring people to quarantine in the NT.
Meanwhile, New Zealanders will be able to travel to NSW, the ACT and Northern Territory from today without quarantining under a one-way travel bubble arrangement that excludes Australians.
Kiwis will have to quarantine for two weeks when they return home.
- with AAP
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