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Farmers welcome expansion of Pacific Island scheme

8 September 2011

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed the announcement that workers from Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu will be able to participate in the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme.

NFF Vice-President, Duncan Fraser, said today’s announcement recognises the important role the Scheme continues to play in meeting the seasonal harvest needs of Australia’s horticultural industry.

“Some 22,000 fruit picking jobs go begging in Australia each year, with horticultural growers left to watch their produce rot at a cost of around $100,000 per crop per year in lost production,” Mr Fraser said.

“The NFF was a co-founder of the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme with the Federal Government as a way of mutually benefiting farmers and employees – providing the workforce we desperately need, and in turn, providing new skills and training to employees coming to Australia temporarily, skills that they can then apply at home.

“We are pleased that the Scheme has been extended as it indicates a long-term commitment from the Government to not only the pilot, but also the wider rollout of the scheme.

“At the same time, it is important that feedback from participating Australian farmers is incorporated to ensure both uptake and improvements in the scheme. It is also vital that the extension of the scheme to workers from Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu leads to overall scheme improvement and does not detract from progress made by current participating nations including Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu,” Mr Fraser said.

Under the pilot scheme, Pacific workers are employed in Australia for four to six months to work for farmers in the horticulture industry to meet seasonal harvest needs.

Farmers must be able to demonstrate that they cannot find enough local labour to meet the harvest requirement, and must demonstrate their commitment to best practice in delivering on-farm skills, good working conditions and human resource management. Farmers also pay the travel expenses of their Pacific Island employees.

“There are 2,500 positions on offer under the Scheme each year, with 560 Pacific Islander workers taking up these positions to date. The growth potential for this scheme is limitless, particularly given today’s announcement. And, given that the Scheme has today been extended to include a trial for tourism, we would be very interested to explore with Government the possibility of extending the scheme into other areas within agriculture,” Mr Fraser said.

“We look forward to welcoming workers from the eight participating Pacific Islands to our horticulture farms during the next seasonal harvest,” Mr Fraser said.

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