30 Sep 2005

Australia cool on Pacific labour mobility plan

1:38 pm on 30 September 2005

The Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, has been dismissive of a plan to grant Pacific Islanders temporary work visas to Australia.

The issue of free trade in services, including labour, is being promoted as part of the Pacific Plan, which the leaders of the 16 Pacific Island Forum countries will discuss when they meet in Papua New Guinea in four weeks.

Speaking to Radio Australia in Fiji, the minister said to take unskilled people and put them into the citrus blocks in South Australia for a few weeks every year is not an idea that is going to work.

Mr Downer also says there would be a certain amount of resentment in some parts of Australia.

He says he doesn't like the system of guest workers.

He also says it would create two employment categories - permanent residents or citizens and guest workers.