29 September 2008

Australian guest worker program causing concern for opposition

New Federal Opposition spokeswoman said the Australian Government's guest worker pilot scheme to begin later this year has not been properly organised, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Under a recent expansion to the 416 Australian visas, thousands of Pacific Islanders from Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tonga, and Papua New Guinea will be able to work in specified horticultural regions of Australia for up to seven months of the year. 

The existing 416 visa has been expanded to allow for the new regulations, which means Pacific Islanders can now be invited by a Government-approved employer to work in a seasonal horticultural occupation.  Workers under the 416 scheme will be stationed only in those regional parts of Australia that are recognised as struggling from labour shortages, so that local Australian workers will not be displaced by overseas workers.

The pilot scheme will run for three years, and will be subject to reviews throughout its implementation.  The Government is basing their scheme on the successful guest worker program that has been running in New Zealand for several years. 

However, Sharman Stone, spokeswoman for the Opposition, said the program was confusing and lacked detail.  She was concerned that when the seasonal fruit thinning begins in two weeks, employers will not know their obligations, including what to do about accommodation, transport, and providing access to local facilities. 

The Government introduced the regulations to Parliament on Tuesday, and is currently holding discussions with the respective Pacific nations to discuss how the new Australian visa holders will be supported by Australian employers and the government.

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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