Australia supporting Pacific workers
- Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Women
- The Hon Alex Hawke MP, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Assistant Defence Minister
Under new visa measures announced by the Australian Government today, Pacific workers who are in Australia under the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) whose visas are due to expire will be able to remain in Australia for up to 12 months. This will enable them to support themselves and continue to make a critical contribution to Australia’s agriculture sector and food security.
The welfare of Pacific workers in Australia is a priority for the Australian Government. We are working with employers to ensure Pacific workers are supported through the COVID-19 crisis, particularly those workers who are currently unable to return home.
The announcement of the new measures by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, the Hon Michael McCormack MP, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, and Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, the Hon David Littleproud MP, recognises the special role Pacific and Timorese workers play in Australia’s agriculture sector.
Pacific and Timorese workers are highly valued by agricultural employers who have made it clear they want Pacific workers to be able to remain here and continue working. Many of these workers have been coming to Australia for a number of years and have strong connections to Australian farming communities. Current travel restrictions and the cessation of commercial flights have left some workers unable to return home, while also stopping new cohorts of Pacific workers from travelling to Australia.
The flow of remittances back to Pacific communities’ makes an important contribution to their ability to withstand the economic impacts of COVID-19.
The Government is providing Pacific workers with the latest health advice and guidance on navigating COVID-19 restrictions and providing other forms of support including pastoral care and information in Pacific languages on issues such as social distancing. All Pacific Islander and Timorese workers have appropriate health insurance and will be cared for in the event they become unwell.
We want to assure our Pacific neighbours that Australia stands with them during this crisis and we are doing all we can to support Pacific workers in Australia.