18 Aug 2008

Australian labour mobility scheme must be separate from trade deals, says OXFAM

8:56 pm on 18 August 2008

The executive director of Oxfam New Zealand, Barry Coates, says Australia's new Labour Mobility Scheme must be kept separate from ongoing trade negotiations.

Mr Coates says the new pilot scheme announced by Australia is good for both that country and the Pacific.

The scheme allows for up to 2,500 workers from Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea to work in Australia for up to seven months in any 12-month period.

But Mr Coates says there are worrying indications that both Australia and New Zealand will try to win trade concessions in exchange for continued access to their labour markets.

"If this is recognised as a win win situation then that's fine and it should be able to stand on its own merits. So it's really the threat of using the seasonal workers scheme as being something that would be expanded or withdrawn depending on what happens in trade negotiations . It's kind of unfair to the Pacific and also unfair, of course, to the horticulture industry in Australia and New Zealand."

Mr Coates says he shares the disappointment of those in the Solomons who had hoped their country would be included in the Australian scheme.