PNG moments from Blatchford 1963
Just a little bit of culture, please Senator

Looks like guest workers down the drain

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that the much-vaunted trial to recruit guest workers from the Pacific Islands has hit the rocks. Six months ago the Federal Government announced that the first migrant workers would arrive in Australia with the onset of the fruit picking season before Christmas.

As part of the trial, 100 workers were to go to Griffith in the Riverina and Swan Hill in Victoria to pick and pack fruit, the first wave in a migrant labour force expected to grow to 2,500. Workers from Papua New Guinea were to have been included in the trial.

But now it seems bureaucratic bungling has gummed up the planning and that the scheme has been overtaken at speed by the global economic downturn. But in any event, PNG – which I was reliably informed was added to the scheme only at the last minute – does not seem to have been part of the planning process. The Government has signed agreements with Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu, but not with PNG.

Agreements or not, the scheme appears doomed. The Federal Government has declined to even offer a start date. And a Government source, probably not a million miles removed from a nervous politician, has also “cautioned” about the effect on the scheme of the economy, saying Pacific Island workers would be employed only where there was a proven demand due to significant labour shortages.

Opposition immigration spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, accused the Government of bungling. Dr Stone said fruit growers had been irked to see hardly any action on the guest workers when so many federal bureaucrats were involved in consultations. On occasion, more bureaucrats than residents had attended meetings, she had been told.

Ah well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Source: ‘Bungling stalls plan to import fruit pickers’ by Mark Metherell, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 January 2009


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