9 Dec 2009

Hopes that Australia's Pacific labour scheme will kick off

2:43 pm on 9 December 2009

The Horticulture Council of Australia says it is hopeful that a pilot labour scheme employing people from Pacific Islands countries will pick up over the summer.

Australia is in the second year of a three-year trial during which up to 2,500 short term visas were to issued to workers from designated Pacific nations.

It was seen as a opportunity to ease ongoing labour shortages in horticulture and provide an economic boost for the home countries.

Chris Newton of the Horticulture Council says a number of factors discouraged the growers from taking on the islanders, but this is expected to change.

"There have been issues with some, I stress some but unfortunately giving the others a bad name, some labour contractors in Australia doing very poor practice and exploiting their workers and, indeed, in some cases the growers. Some fixation about the only two or three pilot regions, that has apparently now been eased. There is some movement I think in the scheme settings which might lead to greater flexibility and therefore more interest from the growers in taking on some workers."

Chris Newton of the Horticulture Council in Australia