18 Feb 2015

Call for Pacific seasonal workers to share costs

8:38 pm on 18 February 2015

There are currently just over 2,000 people from the Pacific involved in a scheme that provides up to six months work in the country's horticulture sector.

But these numbers are much lower than anticipated when the scheme started in 2008 and a survey by the Australian National University's Development Policy Centre identified what is stopping farmers hiring the islanders.

Professor Stephen Howes says the opportunities for backpackers to extend their visas by working in orchards is a factor, but farmers face much red tape and transport costs which they say could be shared.

"Especially for returning workers, they think they could bear those costs and we think that's reasonable because if you ask a Pacific Islander, in general they'd much rather come to Australia than New Zealand. I mean our minimum wage here is just much higher so it is a more financially lucrative scheme here in Australia for workers and the real challenge is to grow the scheme."

Professor Stephen Howes