Tasmanian farmers have hit out at Employment Minister Eric Abetz saying their industry should not be a "dumping ground" for young unemployed people facing a six-month wait to get Newstart payments.
The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association has accused Senator Abetz of failing to understand how one of the key industries in his home state functions after he suggested jobless Australians under 30 should take up fruit picking.
Senator Abetz was promoting the government's "earn or learn" policy for Australian youth when he said that if 90 per cent of fruit picking work in Tasmania was done by foreigners, there was no reason young unemployed Tasmanians could not do the same task.
The association's chief executive Jan Davis said on Monday that Senator Abetz was being unrealistic.
"Fruit picking and vegetable picking by definition is seasonal so the thought that we would get long-term full-time positions out of it is not a realistic one," she told ABC radio.
"That's part of the reason that backpackers are such a good solution for us."
Ms Davis said the association would be explaining to Senator Abetz and state governments how farming works.
"Farming is not a dumping ground for people who are not employment ready," she said.
"I haven't heard Senator Abetz or anybody else suggesting that we hogtie unemployed people and drag them down to work in coffee shops or retail."
Senator Abetz said on Monday that young people had no right to rely on their fellow Australians to subsidise them.
He used himself as an example of the earn or learn philosophy in practice, telling the ABC that he had taken jobs driving a taxi, delivering bread and working on a chicken farm while he was at university.
''There is no right to demand from your fellow Australians that just because you don't want to do a bread delivery or a taxi run or a stint as a farmhand that you should therefore be able to rely on your fellow Australian to subsidise you,'' he said.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has also shown little patience for Labor's criticism of Newstart changes as "the single most heartless measure in the budget".
''They could do a further training program whilst they are looking for work [or] many people take a job which is not the job they really want, just to get a job and get going," he told Fairfax Media last week.