Pacific worker plan under consideration

The Federal Government has left the door open to the adoption of a guest worker scheme under which businesses could employ low-skilled workers from Pacific nations on a temporary basis.

The suggestion for a Pacific island guest worker scheme emerged from last weekend’s 2020 Summit as a possible solution to the skills shortage, especially for employers in regional areas.

The proposal yesterday met with support from an unexpected source when Australian Workers’ Union national secretary Paul Howes saying he believed a Pacific guest worker scheme is inevitable.

“We are changing our view because we believe that industry and the Government are more committed to a more transparent process,” Howes said.

And now it appears the Federal Government is looking at how such a scheme might work. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith yesterday confirmed the Government has sought information from the New Zealand Government on a pilot guest worker scheme it is running.

A guest worker scheme of the kind being considered would fill a different niche to the s457 temporary migration scheme because it would be open to low skilled workers. It would be of greatest benefit to the agriculture sector, which has struggled to find workers to perform fruit picking and other tasks since the onset of the skills shortage.



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