Could troubled youths help pick? Bowen grower not so sure
AMID concerns growers in the region could soon face a picker shortage, a Whitsunday state candidate has suggested troubled youths could help pick up the slack.
But a Bowen grower insists farmers are not social workers and unwilling participants could take a toll on their businesses.
Katter's Australian Party candidate for Whitsunday Ciaron Paterson floated the idea of using troubled youths to help pick fruit and vegetables this week, saying if they wanted to "do the crime, let's give them an adult ultimatum".
"Why should fruit have to drop on the ground to rot when we have the ever-growing problem with troubled youth?" Mr Paterson said.
"COVID-19 is challenging the country's $14.4 billion dollar horticulture industry, which has traditionally relied on working holiday-makers to help get fruit and vegetables off the farm, but with minimal travellers due to COVID-19 we need an alternative.
"If they don't want to go to school and they want to start running the streets and terrorising the neighbourhoods, here's a hard lesson."
Mr Paterson said if elected he would set up a program to allow troubled youths to work on farms that had labour shortages.
"If the South Australian Government can set up a program for Visa workers and their families to move to Australia to work on large-scale dairy farms, why can't the Queensland Government develop or piggyback off the same concept?"
Bowen Gumlu Growers Association president Carl Walker spoke out this week about the need to extend visas to help farms continue operating during travel restrictions.
Mr Walker said the idea of using troubled youth to help pickers sounded good on paper, but pressed that farmers were running a business.
If participants were forced to take part, it could cause issues, he said.
"A lot of these kids just need a fair go and we're happy to give them a fair go but people have got to realise farmers are not social workers," he said.
"We can't deal with these problems every day, we're running a business.
"If someone wants to be out partying and out stealing cars tonight and not turning up tomorrow, we haven't got time for that."
Mr Walker said it affected farmers' businesses if workers did not show up or needed to be kept on the right track.
"I've got no problem with these kids but they're being forced to come down and have a go, that's a no-win situation," Mr Walker said.
"If these kids want to better themselves and be part of this great industry called farming, we'll open our arms.
"But farming is a high stress job and we have not got time to be a social worker as well."
Mr Paterson suggested people aged between 14 and 25 could take part, saying the program would also help educate people that may have had a difficult upbringing.
"If their home life is so bad, then make change within your life and that comes along the process of education and trying to show them that this is how we can do it," he said.
"If you want to have the money to buy a play station or buy a bike, well hey turn your life around.
"You'll get more satisfaction out of that."