Tongan workers arrive to support Queensland’s Horticultural Producers

  • Joint media release:
  • 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
09 November 2020

Australia welcomes another significant step towards restarting Australia’s highly valued Pacific labour mobility programs and supporting our Pacific family, with the arrival of the first group of Tongan workers since Australia’s border restrictions came into effect in March.

This will also be the first time Pacific seasonal workers will be quarantined on farm, consistent with the Queensland Government’s approved guidelines.

The 151 Tongan Seasonal Worker Programme participants will support Queensland’s horticultural producers who play an integral role in securing Australia’s food supply and boosting regional economies. They follow on from the 323 workers who have arrived in the Northern Territory to date, from Vanuatu.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, said the Morrison Government is working with States and Territories, industry and Pacific governments, to ensure Australia’s valued Pacific labour mobility initiatives — the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme — can resume safely.

“These programs help businesses in rural and regional areas secure a productive workforce, while providing valuable skills and income to Pacific workers who send home savings to support their families and communities,” she said.

“They provide benefits for Australia and the participating Pacific countries and Timor-Leste. Our cooperation is enabling these programs to recommence in a COVID-safe way.”

All placements are subject to labour market testing in Australia.

Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Alex Hawke MP, said the programs provided employment opportunities for Pacific workers to play a critical role in supporting our food supply during the pandemic.

“All ten of the participating countries in our Pacific labour schemes have accepted our invitation to re-start recruitment, following the decision of National Cabinet to recommence these programs on 21 August,” he said.

“We encourage industry and state and territory governments to continue to identify options, such as industry-led quarantine, to enable more Pacific workers to enter Australia to fill critical workforce shortages while ensuring that returning Australian citizens and residents continued to be prioritised.”

The flight was also the first opportunity since borders closed to assist 80 Tongan citizens and residents to return to Tonga.

Participating countries in the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme are Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru and Timor-Leste.

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