19 Feb 2010

Australia allocates 650 places for Papua New Guinean seasonal workers

3:58 pm on 19 February 2010

Papua New Guinea has been allocated 650 visas for fruit picking in rural Australia as part of the beleaguered Pacific seasonal worker pilot scheme.

But before any apples or pears are plucked, PNG officials must first formally sign up to the programme.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman says once the terms of PNG's participation in the pilot scheme have been finalised, the number of visas granted will depend on demand for seasonal labour from Australian horticultural growers.

Meanwhile the PNG Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal says a taskforce had been set up to select workers to ensure that good people can be found to establish a good reputation to convince the Australians to recruit more from PNG.

In August 2008, Australia announced it would give up to 2500 temporary work visas over three years to Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and PNG to undertake seasonal agricultural work, such as fruit picking.

However on a few dozen seasonal workers have arrived in the country so far.

The Australian government blamed the global financial crisis and decreased labour demands, but farmers complained that too much government bureaucracy and meddling was stifling the scheme.