Joint Media Release with the Hon Tony Burke MP Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Fifty seasonal workers from Tonga today arrived under the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme.
The Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme is a demand-driven program which responds to the needs of growers in the pilot areas of Griffith (New South Wales), Swan Hill and Robinvale (Victoria).
Growers who wish to participate in the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme must demonstrate that they have tested the local labour market by participating in labour market programs for the training and career development of Australians, particularly income support recipients and Indigenous Australians.
No Australian job seeker or worker will be displaced by the Pilot. Employers are required to put Australian job seekers first.
The fifty workers from Tonga will attend an induction day before travelling to Robinvale in Victoria to assist with the almond harvest.
Local advisory bodies have been established in Griffith and Swan Hill to provide invaluable local advice on the implementation of the Pilot.
Two labour hire companies (Tree Minders from Victoria and Griffith Skills Training based in New South Wales) have been selected as the employers for the first tranche of up to 100 Pacific seasonal workers.
To date, four growers in the Pilot areas have submitted applications.
The Australian horticultural industry has been strongly supportive of the pilot, with demand for the program driven by Australian farmers unable to find the labour to get their produce to market.
As a result of the economic downturn and subsequent higher unemployment, it is anticipated that demand for Pacific seasonal workers will decline in the coming period. Indeed, demand from growers has been less than first expected.
Under the pilot, up to 2,500 visas will be available over three years for workers from Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea to work in Australia for up to seven months in any 12-month period.
An evaluation of the effectiveness of the Pilot will be conducted with reports to Government after 18 months and 30 months of operation.
All Pacific seasonal workers will be employed in accordance with Australian work standards and awards.
Participating employers will pay half of the return air fares, and cover establishment costs involved in bringing the Pacific seasonal workers to Australia.
For further information on the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme please visit: http://www.deewr.gov.au/PSWPS