PNG Opposition concerned about changes to Aussie shift to agriculture visa

A man works in a Hawke's Bay orchard under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme. Picture: FT FILE

PORT MORESBY, 19 SEPTEMBER 2018 (POST COURIER) – Papua New Guinea Opposition has expressed concern over proposed changes relating to Australia’s shift towards a new agriculture visa for Asian farm workers.

Shadow Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey said this could potentially destroy the seasonal workers programme and undermine its people-to-people linkages with Pacific nations.

Ling-Stuckey’s comments follow the Australian government’s announcement of a new agriculture visa for Asian countries which it is still discussing.

He said while PNG appreciates the ongoing difficulties with a reliable pool of workers available to the Australian horticultural and wider agriculture sector and new initiatives to address labour shortages, recent debates in the PNG Parliament demonstrated both sides of politics clearly wanted to “step-up” the number of workers under the seasonal workers programme.

He said introducing a new unlimited agriculture visa kind of looks like a “step-down.”

“PNG understands the mutual gains from dramatically increasing PNG’s involvement in the SWP and Pacific Labour Scheme. PNG needs to diversify its economy and such labour mobility schemes were a clear way forward,” he said.

He said if Vanuatu and Tonga could send thousands of workers to Australia, PNG could eventually send tens of thousands. However, this would take a few years to ensure the scheme didn’t grow too quickly.

“On the PNG side, we acknowledge that we have been slow to tap into the scheme’s potential,” he said…PACNEWS

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