18 Sep 2018

Australia delays controversial agriculture visa

9:01 am on 18 September 2018

Australia's government has delayed the announcement of a new agriculture visa, which Pacific leaders feared could have spelled the end of two workers' visas unique for the region.

Apple trees in orchard.

Photo: elenathewise/123RF

Canberra has been signalling it will introduce a new visa to fill labour gaps in agricultural sectors, which would likely be open to people from Asian countries or anyone from anywhere.

But that's prompted concerns that two already-existing visas, which allow for Pacific Islanders to work in Australia, would be killed by such a scheme.

Australia's Assistant Minister for the Pacific, Anne Ruston, now says the visa is "still very much in development," and Australia's commitment to labour mobility in the region remains a "number one priority."

Stephen Howes, from the Australian National University, says any removal of Pacific benefits would likely harm relations.

"You know Australia's developed something called the step-up strategy in the Pacific and at the heart of that strategy is labour mobility. It's meant to be something we can offer the Pacific that China can't. So from a foreign policy perspective this new visa would be disastrous and it would really shred Australia's credibility in the Pacific," Stephen Howes said.

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