17 February 2009
Guest workers finally arrive in Australia for pilot programme
The guest worker pilot scheme to help farmers with their harvests is finally underway in regional Australia, although not without controversy, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
Fifty Tongan workers arrived yesterday in regional Australia to officially kick-start the long-awaited Pacific Islander guest worker pilot scheme. Under the scheme, Australia would provide 2,500 temporary Australian working visas to labourers from Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea so that specific horticultural regions can have extra labour to help harvest crops.
However, the Opposition to the Government is saying that the programme is coming at a time when Australians need their jobs most, and that the Government should be embarrassed by their organisational skills.
"We have led these nations to believe there are 2500 opportunities to earn good money in Australia to send back to communities in the Pacific but instead we've had massive bungling and inefficiency," said Sharman Stone, Opposition spokesperson for Australian immigration.
Agricultural Minister Tony Burke has counteracted the Opposition's argument, saying that the purpose of the scheme is to fill the jobs that Australians simply do not want to do, no matter what the employment rate is sitting at.
"It never mattered what the unemployment rate was. The farmers have been complaining for decades about trying to get enough workers to pick the fruit," he said.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard promises the scheme would not undermine the efforts to get Australians into work, and that all farmers part of the scheme would have to prove they had exhausted the local labour market before hiring an overseas worker. She also warned that the 2,500-visa quota would remain reflexive to the economic situation in Australia, and the Government would amend it accordingly, if need be.
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.