The federal government has urged state and territory counterparts to opt into a Pacific workforce scheme, as Australia welcomes the first group of quarantine-free workers via the Pacific Pathways Plan (PPP).
Under the PPP scheme, people from Pacific countries classified as a low COVID-risk are eligible to come to Australia for work in the agriculture, meat processing, tourism and care sectors. The federal scheme was designed with a view to helping meet ‘critical workforce gaps’ for the nation.
In a joint statement with minister for international development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said a total of 136 workers from the Solomon Islands arrived on Tuesday. Unlike previous groups of workers who have entered Australia under the PPP, these workers will not be subject to a compulsory 14-day quarantine period.
“Remittances to the Pacific represent a critical source of economic investment in our region as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19 together,” the ministers said.
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“The PPP will reduce red tape and costs for Australian businesses seeking to access urgently needed labour.”
Previous schemes similar to the PPP have helped bring more than 13,000 Pacific and Timorese workers into Australia since August last year. These critical workers arrived under the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and the previously named Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) (now called the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme). More than 17,000 PALM participants are presently working in Australia.
“Fully vaccinated workers from Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru may now enter Australia to fill critical work gaps without employers having to pay for quarantine,” the minsters’ statement said.
“The [federal] government is committed to continuing to work with our Pacific family and the states and territories to bring additional workers to Australia, drawing from a Pacific work-ready pool of 55,000.”
Payne and Seselja also appealed to their state and territory counterparts who had not opted to join the PPP to do so. The list of participating PALM scheme employees can be found online.
This article was first published by The Mandarin.