Australia's farmers and regional businesses will be able to recruit much-needed workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste under arrangements agreed between the Morrison Government and the States and Territories.
The agreement struck today paves the way for the resumption of recruitments under the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS), which connect Pacific and Timorese workers with Australian businesses and fill rural and regional workforce shortages when Australian workers are not available.
The arrival of new workers under these programmes had to be paused in March because of necessary COVID-19 travel restrictions, which are protecting the health of Australians, Pacific Islanders and Timorese.
The Morrison Government is focused on ensuring Australian growers and other critical industries have access to the labour force they need. Filling these positions will not come at the expense of getting Australians into jobs. Approved Employers can recruit through the Pacific labour mobility programs only if they can demonstrate they cannot find suitable Australian workers.
The agricultural sector is facing unprecedented pressure on labour supply as a result of COVID-19. These new arrangements will help ensure that States and Territories can address labour market shortages affecting Australian farmers and other regional businesses.
The programmes support food production in Australia so that farm produce does not go to waste, and help ensure the agricultural sector continues to play a key role in Australia's economic recovery.
States and Territories can opt in to these arrangements. Any recruitment will be subject to States and Territories demonstrating sufficient health and quarantine system capacity.
There will be stringent health conditions in place to ensure any recruitment follows required directives and does not put at risk the health or safety of Australians and Pacific workers. Workers will comply with required quarantine periods.
The approach is being informed by a trial recruitment of Pacific workers in the Northern Territory to address labour shortages affecting mango farmers.
Pacific labour mobility will contribute to the economic recoveries of Australia, the Pacific and Timor-Leste.
Our labour mobility programs deliver direct and tangible benefits to our Pacific family, providing income, skills and valuable remittances to support the economic development of our region.
We will work with the Pacific and Timor-Leste governments who want to resume participation to ensure the schemes operate safely.
This announcement builds on the visa changes the Australian Government announced in April to enable temporary workers in Australia to continue to support critical sectors like agriculture, following the disruption of international travel due to COVID-19.
It also follows the announcement earlier this month of a trial in the Northern Territory to address labour shortages affecting mango farmers.