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Australian MP floats conscription style system for unemployed to fill farm jobs

A federal Liberal MP has floated a conscription-style system applying "heat and pressure" on unemployed people to fill farm jobs.

A young calf (file). Source: istock.com

Sydney-based backbencher John Alexander is keen to hit welfare recipients with more stick and less carrot ahead of upcoming fruit and vegetable harvests.

"We need some more teeth," he told a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday.

"While we can't probably go to conscription, can we apply a little more heat and pressure and do it urgently, because the crops won't wait."

Farmers have warned of crippling labour shortages with coronavirus restrictions cutting off the supply of foreign workers.

Earlier, Mr Alexander raised physical examinations similar to military conscription for people out of work.

He later landed on a compulsory questionnaire about farm labour for all JobSeeker recipients, who would have their dole cut off if they refused to complete the form.

"The question should be asked, 'if not, why not?' If somebody is saying 'oh no I don't want to do that' because they're just happy sitting on the couch and taking the dole," Mr Alexander said.

"What more pressure could be applied to somebody who's a little bit marginal?

"It needs to be done as if we're in a war situation. It needs to be mobilised very quickly."

Job seekers outside Victoria already need to apply for eight jobs a month or risk having their payments suspended.

National Employment Services Association chief executive Sally Sinclair said the questionnaire could be possible through the online government platform unemployed people use.

She said a greater awareness of harvest trail opportunities along with flexible incentive schemes would be important to filling agriculture positions.

"We need to look at how to provide the appropriate incentives and the leverage to get people from those urban areas into agricultural sectors," Ms Sinclair said.