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 Federal Government and the various states and territories.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, made the announcement on Friday in conjunction with several other federal ministers.
Programmes were halted in March
The agreement paves the way for the resumption of recruitment under the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).
These schemes connect Pacific and Timorese workers with Australian businesses in order to fill rural and regional workforce shortages when Australian workers are not available.
In March both programmes had to be temporarily halted due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and border closures.
Not at the expense of Aussie jobs
The minister said the intention was to ensure Australian growers and other critical industries have access to the labour force they need. However, this would not be at the expense of jobs for Australians.
Approved employers can recruit through the Pacific labour mobility programmes only if they can demonstrate they cannot find suitable Australian workers, she emphasised.
“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,” Payne said.
Key role in our economic recovery
“The programmes support food production in Australia so that farm produce does not go to waste and [will] help ensure the agricultural sector continues to play a key role in Australia’s economic recovery.”
Individual states and territories can chose to opt into these arrangements. However, any recruitment will be subject to each 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,” Payne said.
She added that the approach to health protocols is being informed by a trial recruitment of Pacific workers in the Northern Territory to address labour shortages affecting mango farmers.