“The Edmund Rice Centre welcomes the Australian Government’s announcement of its Pacific Guest Worker Scheme .” said ERC environment spokesperson, Jill Finnane.
“Pacific Island nations have been asking for a scheme like this for a long time and the government is to be congratulated for listening to their calls.”
“The three year trial makes a welcome companion scheme to Australia’s small vocational training initiatives that are increasing the number of skilled workers in the Pacific,” she said
The Edmund Rice Centre is the coordinating organisation of the Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP) which recently hosted the visit of President Anote Tong of Kiribati. President Tong spoke about the huge benefits that such a guest worker scheme would bring to his country.
“In our discussions, the President made it clear that a well-designed labour access scheme is not just about stopping Australian fruit from rotting on the vine, nor is it just about getting a job.”
“For Kiribati, it will build up work skills, send remittances home and make a dent in high youth unemployment and unrest.” said Ms Finnane, who coordinates the Pacific Calling Partnership.
“Most Australians would not be aware of just how carefully and generously those remittances are shared out among the island community.”
“But most importantly, labour access is one of the strategies that low-lying island nations are calling for, to help them prepare for the inevitable loss of land and livelihood that climate change is bringing them.”
“As President Tong said, 'We want to be able to move as dignified people, as people with dignity - to move wherever, if it should become necessary!' This requires work skills.” she added
The Edmund Rice Centre has also welcomed the promise of safeguards such as employers having to show that locals are unavailable before they can apply for Pacific Island guest workers.
“The criticism some have levelled at the scheme, that Australian Indigenous unemployment should take precedence over the situation of Pacific Island Indigenous people, is an unfair pitting of one group against another.” said Ms Finnane
“The Australian Government needs to address the employment needs of Indigenous Australians, but this is a different issue, coming out of a different budget. Initiatives, such as the recently launched Australian Employment Covenant and many others that link housing, health, employment, nutrition are needed in addition to schemes that support our Pacific neighbours.” she concluded.
For more information please contact Jill Finnane 0417 237 572 or Phil Glendenning 0419 013 758
The Pacific Calling Partnership brings together a growing number of significant non-government organisations, school groups, community organisations, and individuals who all recognise Australia’s ecological debt to those communities whose very existence is threatened by climate change. This includes Kiribati, Tuvalu and other neighbours in low-lying Pacific Island nations, together with some of our own Torres Strait Islander communities.