12 Jun 2008

A plea for Australia to include Fiji workers in any seasonal labour scheme

5:40 pm on 12 June 2008

A Fiji academic says unskilled workers from Fiji must be allowed to join a proposed guest workers scheme in Australia because they are among the poorest in the Pacific.

The Australian government has flagged a possible trial of a guest workers scheme to help address labour shortages, particularly in the agricultural sector.

Under the scheme, Australian employers would be able to bring in workers from the Pacific, subject to them receiving Australian wages and working conditions.

Media reports indicate that military-ruled Fiji would be banned but Professor Wadan Narsey, an economist from the University of the South Pacific, says that would be grossly unfair.

He says Fiji had one of the highest rates of poverty in the Pacific, and must be allowed to participate.

Professor Narsey says to use the poorest people in the Pacific as pawns would be callous and heartless.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the Australia Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, says the scheme is yet to go before cabinet, and there had been no decision on Fiji's participation.