18 August 2008

Pacific Islander guest worker scheme given the go-ahead

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The Australian Government announced on Sunday the Pacific Islander guest worker scheme will be introduced later this year, reports AFP. Under the new scheme, thousands of Pacific Islanders will be relocated to regional Australia to work in the horticultural industry.

The Government proposed a scheme to invite Pacific Islanders to work in specified regions of Australia after a similar scheme in New Zealand proved to be successful in filling shortages in the labour workforce. 

2,500 workers will be temporarily stationed in regions of Australia that are suffering from a shortage of workers and will be supported by the Government with resettlement programs.  Guest workers from Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea will be allowed to legally work in Australia picking fruit and vegetable harvests for seven months in any twelve-month period. 

Some groups opposed to the scheme have questioned whether it is a glorified cheap labour scheme, reports the news provider, but the Government has assured the scheme is beneficial to both Australia and the local economies of the five Pacific nations.  As the New Zealand scheme has already shown, workers will be able to send remittances to family at home and return with new farming skills.  Australian businesses will also be able to maximise profits from their farms by harvesting all of their crops.

"For too long Australian farmers have become sick to death of watching their own fruit rotting on the vine because they couldn't get a worker there to pick the fruit," said Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke.

The Government has also reassured that the program will be regulated to ensure the rights of the overseas workers are protected, that the local employment industry will be exhausted before employing overseas workers through the scheme, and that all workers will receive fair rates of pay and good working conditions.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people apply for an Australia visa.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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