4 Responses

  1. Luse Kinivuwai
    Luse Kinivuwai October 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I read this article with much interest. Your 7 suggestions are absolutely on the money. The Pacific consist of small island economies with many limitations. Remittances continue to be a large part of these economies and promoting the SWP can only be a good thing by the Coalition. Thank you for this, there are not many articles you read on improving Australian policies to assist Pacific islands countries.

  2. Henry Sherrell
    Henry Sherrell September 25, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Good stuff. Hopefully the new government is serious about the program. To me, it seems like an issue the Nationals should get behind to ‘future-proof’ regional labour markets. If they are in a position of driving any reform, the program will better suit the industries they seek to represent.

    However I think there are some pretty significant barriers implicit in these suggestions.

    Removing the incentive for backpackers would be good policy, but I’m not sure if it will be politically acceptable. The long-term argument is firmly with seasonal workers over backpackers (productivity and labour certainty) but in the short-term, industry sees WHMs as the only thing propping many of them up. Why take that away? Someone needs to do some serious work on the productivity benefits of the program to convince industry of the merits of seasonal workers. In a similar vein, clamping down on illegal workers is very expensive and very much unknown. Compliance operations across regional Australia would be one of the most expensive to undertake and given the estimated scope of the problem, is unlikely to occur even in the medium term. If an ALP-led government wasn’t interested in cracking down on illegal farm labour, why would the Coalition government be? Unfortunately, I think any change will have to come from employers choosing to use the seasonal work program as opposed to withdrawing labour from other sources.

    While I agree with increasing cost-sharing arrangements, why should employers not be liable for anything? There is a risk you will increase cost repayments and lower minimum work hours to such an extent that any net gains may become marginal. I don’t think this would be common, but it should be considered. In New Zealand they are still required to co-pay on a range of activities and this doesn’t reduce program activity. Having the aid program facilitate increased program activity in Melanesia is a fantastic idea given the potential returns over time.

    Finally, I think expanding the WHM program to Pacific island nations is a good idea but the amount of effort required is substantial. The WHM agreements take years to evolve and if we understand the bureaucracy to have a limited amount of resources and opportunities, isn’t it better to focus on providing a workable seasonal worker program instead of introducing multiple bilateral MoUs with many pacific governments? This should especially with a new government that may be focused on improving the seasonal worker program.

  3. Jesse Doyle
    Jesse Doyle September 23, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    To clarify on point 5, the cap for the SWP does increase on a yearly basis up until 2016. A document that emerged from a Senate debate has been forwarded to us and reveals that the cap for FY 2012-2013 is in fact 2,000 not 1,600 as suggested. The number of places scheduled for FY 2013-2014 is 2,500; 3,250 in FY 2014-2015 and 4,250 in FY 2015-2016. However, this eventual cap of 4,250 is still approximately half of New Zealand’s annual cap under the RSE scheme.

  4. Tess Newton Cain
    Tess Newton Cain September 23, 2013 at 7:36 am

    These are all good suggestions and we will be following with interest to see which if any of them are progressed. An additional issue was identified in a recent ‘in brief’ item published by the State, Society & Governance in Melanesia programme – focusing on how improved cross-cultural communication can add to the value of the SWP – it is available here: http://ips.cap.anu.edu.au/ssgm/publications/in-brief-series

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