14 Jul 2010

PNG deal a breakthrough for Australia seasonal worker scheme

1:41 pm on 14 July 2010

An Australian researcher on Pacific labour mobility issues says a new agreement signed by Papua New Guinea to send seasonal employees to pick fruit in Australia is a significant breakthrough.

A memorandum of understanding on the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme has been signed by the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministers of PNG and Australia.

The programme was launched in 2008, when Australia signed deals with Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu to grant up to 2500 temporary work visas over three years.

To date just a few dozen workers have been employed but researcher, Nick Maclellan, says the new deal with PNG is a significant step for Australia.

"I think there's concern that the Australian scheme has been very slow getting under way. In the first year New Zealand had nearly four thousand people come on RSE visas to work in the horticultural industry. In the first year of Australia's scheme, only fifty six workers came. It's obvious there's a need to look at expanding the programme to meet the targets that have been set."

Pacific labour mobility researcher Nick Maclellan.