6 Feb 2009

Australian government says seasonal worker pilot scheme still on track

11:47 am on 6 February 2009

The Australian government now says there is no delay to a pilot scheme to allow Pacific Islanders to undertake seasonal horticultural work.

The scheme, which will make visas available to two and a half thousand workers from Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, was expected to begin late last year after details were announced in August.

A report prepared last year by the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based, independent international policy think tank, shows a strong demand from growers for more pickers during peak times.

But a spokesperson for the Employment Minister says only four growers from Victoria and New South Wales have expressed interest in taking the first hundred workers in the pilot programme.

Kimberley Gardiner says the government is encouraging more growers to participate in the demand-driven scheme and has selected two labour hire companies to employ and place workers for the scheme's first phase.

Under the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme, visas will enable residents of Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea to work in Australia for up to seven months in any 12-month period.