PNG’s annual 137 seasonal workers to Australia is unacceptable says Ling-Stuckey
31 August, 2018, 6:12 pm
PORT MORESBY, 31 AUGUST 2018 (POST COURIER) – The number of Papua New Guineans participating in the annual Seasonal Workers Program between Australia and PNG is unacceptably small says the member for Kavieng Ian Ling-Stuckey.
Querying the Minister for Labor and Industrial Relations Mehrra Kipefa, Ling-Stuckey eloquently voiced his concerns on the ridiculously low number of Papua New Guineans taking part in the program.
The shadow treasurer said that it was illogical and plain vile to have smaller Pacific countries like Tonga and Vanuatu send more workers annually to Australia than PNG which remains the largest of the Pacific island nations.
“I am very concerned that PNG is not rising to meet this wonderful opportunity.
“Last year in 2017, Tonga with a population of about 107,000 people, which is smaller than New Ireland’s population, successfully engaged 2,690 of its citizens in Australia sending home about AUD$26.253 million in foreign exchange or about K64 million ((US$19.6 million),” said Ling-Stuckey.
He said that furthermore, it was sad to learn from statistics provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that a mere 139 citizens of PNG had taken part in last year’s SWP.
He asked what were the Labour Minister and his department’s plans to improve these numbers and utilize the potential of a program that has proven to be lucrative and mutually beneficial for other island nations.
In responding on behalf of the Labour Minister who was not present, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said that he would get Minister Kipefa to get hard figures on how many PNG citizens had taken part in the SWP since its inception in 2008.
The PM added that he agreed that the SWP was being underutilized and that more in-roads should be made by the department in cooperation with DFAT to ensure PNG provides a much larger number of workers for seasonal work.
“We will work on improving the numbers but what I can say about our workers who go to Australia is that they are spoken of in high regard by Australian farmers and other entities that use the SWP.
“This is an indication that our workers are wanted on the ground, we just need to get the administrative affairs sorted,” added PM O’Neill.
Sir Mekere Morauta added a supplementary question asking the PM to get Australia to give PNG a SWP quota so that a steady number of workers are prepped for work annually, a suggestion to which the PM agreed to get the Minister to look into.