The Hon. Duncan Kerr SC MP
The Hon Duncan Kerr SC MP
Former Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs

Media Release

August 20, 2008

Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme is more proof of Australia's new Pacific focus 

The Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme is a win-win for both Australia and the Pacific region as a whole.

 “The introduction of a seasonal worker scheme has been at the top of the agenda for many Pacific Island leaders,” said Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Duncan Kerr.

“It has also been a key objective of Australian farmers and growers.

“The Rudd Government has listened to the evidence and taken decisive action to introduce a pilot scheme that is a win-win for both Australia’s farming communities and our close neighbours across the Pacific.

“In just over nine months, the Rudd Labor Government has fundamentally reformed Australia’s relationship with the Pacific with a range of practical measures and active diplomacy.

“This pilot scheme, along with the Prime Minister’s attendance this week at the Pacific Leaders’ Forum in Niue, provides yet more evidence of the importance the Rudd Government places on its closest region.”

Some key facts:

Up to 2500 workers from Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu will participate in the three-year pilot and work for up to seven months a year in the horticulture industry.

The pilot scheme includes one country each from Melanesia (Vanuatu), Polynesia (Tonga) and Micronesia (Kiribati) which already has a proven track record of sending workers to New Zealand under its seasonal labour scheme.

Australia’s pilot scheme also includes Papua New Guinea and the Australian and PNG governments will work together to strengthen labour-sending arrangements to facilitate PNG’s inclusion of workers.

Australian farmers (represented by the National Farmers’ Federation) are enthusiastic supporters of a seasonal worker scheme. They say up to $700 million of fresh produce is left to rot because of a lack of reliable workers.

The pilot scheme will only operate in areas where there is a demonstrated lack of ready, willing and available labour. Seasonal workers will work to the same pay and conditions of Australian workers.

The seasonal worker scheme is not a cheap labour scheme. With costs of contributing to airfares, accommodation, training and compliance taken into account, participation is likely to cost employers more than if they hired local workers.

More information:

Media inquiries: Mr Kerr's office - 02 6277 4991 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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