BRUCE HILL:

More details are emerging about how the expansion of Australia’s Pacific Labour Scheme’s going to work in the future. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced at last week’s Pacific Islands Forum Leader’s Summit in Samoa that the new Pacific Labour Scheme will allow 3,000 people from Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu to work in rural and regional parts of Australia for up to three years. Australia’s Minister for the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, says this builds on the previous success of the Seasonal Worker Programme Pilot Scheme.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

The Pilot was very successful. What this is now doing is expanding on that. Obviously, we’ve started out with Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu to enable them to access the Pacific Labour Scheme and, of course, to grandfather the work that we’re doing in the existing Pilot. In due course, the Pacific Labour Scheme will be progressively extended to other Pacific Island Countries over the course of 2018. Now we’ll move into the nuts and bolts of how this will work. There will be a lot more work done both in country and in Australia. In terms of outreach, we’ve already commenced a design process for what we’re calling a new Pacific Labour Facility which will look at consultations both domestically and with Pacific Island Countries to ensure that Pacific workers are well connected with Australian employers. There’s the appropriate administrative supports within the Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme.

BRUCE HILL:

There have been some problems with some employers and some stories about Pacific workers being exploited on the Pilot scheme. Are there going to be measures in place to make sure that doesn’t happen?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Well, I think that we’ve got two issues here: we’ve got the Seasonal Worker Programme, which we know has been – and continues to be – predominately available in the horticultural section. We have learnt, of course, that’s part of the work that we’re doing both in country before workers come to Australia and when they are here, so there is appropriate support for the workers. That’s part of the reason why, Bruce, we signed this memorandum of understanding on labour with Nauru, with Kiribati and with Tuvalu. The text of the memorandum of understanding goes into a lot of the nuts and bolts of the arrangements and of course it’s basically to undertake working low and semi-skilled occupations in rural and regional Australia and that’s either work or to undertake training to undertake that work. Basically, the objective of this is not just as we’ve said in the past – it’s not just about labour mobility, it’s actually about capacity building. That’s really what it’s about. The visas will be for up to three years with the objective that people who undertake training and work in Australia then return to their country with those necessary skills. So, that’s really why it’s very important that this component be well and truly identified. Of course, there are the usual safeguards in place; it’s about market testing obviously in areas to ensure that there is a labour shortage in a particular area, so all of these things are all built into it.

BRUCE HILL:

Australia’s Minister for the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

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