Stephen Howes

Stephen Howes is Director of the Development Policy Centre and Professor of Economics at the Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University.


  • I totally agree with you regarding Palau and FSM and so the wisdom of those deciding really needs to be questioned and particularly given that we have limited links with these countries compared to those island nations participating in the PALM scheme.

    I question why the Australian government needs to have agreement from the governments of those countries that it wishes to offer PEV’s to their peoples. I suggest that at least one country has paternalistic governments wanting to control their people and not so interested in their aspirations that lie beyond their own shores.

    Also, to talk of possible brain-drains occurring from countries participating in the PALMS scheme is baseless as many PALMS workers applying for a PEV will be able to gain offers of employment from their present employers, and so this diversifies further the skill pool of applicants.

    Lastly, the degree of climate effects (and specifically sea-level rise) on participating countries should be a major factor in determining future proportions of allocations.

  • PEV favours (advantages) those already in Australia under existing temporary visa arrangements. Not so much favouring those living outside of Australia. Also, one of the criteria is that you must have a job offer in Australia before you’re eligible.

    So the PEV is an opportunity but a restricted one, it’s more like a protectionist policy. Given that most Australian jobs are available for those with some sort of pre-existing legal status or work in right in Australia.

    For a Solomon Islander to participate you will need at least SBD$3000 at the current exchange rate.

    • The ballot itself only costs $25 to enter. Those who want to migrate will have to fund their air fares, but the cost of that will depend on so many factors, e.g. whether they are migrating by themselves or with their family, that it is hard to give an estimate. If the applicant with the job offer can’t afford to bring their family, they can migrate on their own and then bring out their family once they have saved the air fare.

      • Hi Stephen, if you miss out on the eight months to secure a job, will they extend the due date of your application in 2025?

        • The government hasn’t sent yet how long you will have to secure a job. Whether if you don’t get a job quickly enough you can try again the next year is another unknown. These are really interesting questions, and we’ll try and find out answers asap. We’re expecting more information about those “stage 2” (post-ballot) requirements to be released soon.

          • Thank you Stephen. Really eager to apply for the ballot in June 3.

  • Thanks for the informative update.
    The Home Affairs website requires that, ia, successful applicants ‘meet other visa requirements, including English language, character and health checks’. Is further info available about the English language hurdle?

    • These checks (language, character and health) will only apply to those who are successful in the ballot. They are not required to enter the ballot. I don’t think they will be too hard to meet. I understand that details will be released shortly.

  • Thank you, Stephen, for sharing your thoughts. For Australia this a great initiative, particularly for the Albanese Labor led Government in delivering on one of its commitments towards strengthening the Pacific family narrative by growing the Pacific diaspora. For the Pacific, this may be a limited opportunity while the Labor party leads the Australian Government and PICs agressively compete to secure this highly prized visa.

    Whilst we may have valid questions around visa allocations and PNG as resounding winners (for now), there is also another argument beyond the PEV as to whether countries like PNG (closest neighbour with the longest standing relationship with Australia and one of the lowest PALM numbers and diaspora) and Vanuatu (highest PALM sending country over a decade now with low diaspora), should have their own visa access pathway to Australia.

    Similar to New Zealand’s Samoan Access Category, this would subsequently remove PNG and Vanuatu from the PEV and even the playing field so to speak for other PICs to compete for the prized visa instead of a highly PNG favoured visa for obvious and valid reasons, but still questionable if we are to maintain regional buy-in.

    Of course, this may take longer for Australia to consider, given this is a first of its kind permanent migration pathway that was stalled and delayed significantly just to pass the legislative bills for the PEV.

    A PNG Access Category is something that the PNG and Australian Government should be actively pursuing given the long and enduring relationship between the two countries which Albanese and Marape have symbolically consolidated at their inaugural address at each other’s parliaments and recently by walking the Kokoda track together. I must also add that there was bi-partisan support during PM Marape’s inagural address in Canberra after signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement – which was delayed and downgraded from a treaty instigated by PNG, but still a win for both countries.

    It is overdue but timely for PNG and Australia to start getting serious about setting up a PNG Access Category.

    • Hi Natasha, I agree PNG Access Category would be a great idea. However, for it to get off the ground, PNG would first have to show strong demand for the 1,350 PEV visas it has been allocated. Given the difficulty of getting a passport in PNG and the fact that a passport is required to enter the ballot I am very worried on this front. Regards, Stephen

  • The allocation of Papua New Guineans will most probably be dominated by the educated urban population, which is less than 20% of the population. They have access and then means to passport or already have one.

  • Thanks for this very interesting comment on the PEV allocation, Stephen. I am pleased you clarified the situation relating to some of the counties that are missing from the list, especially Kiribati. Like you I am puzzled about the allocations to countries in the northern Pacific that have Compacts of Free Association with the US and, to date, have had minimal engagement with Australia and New Zealand. I don’t see these countries becoming major sources of migrants to countries on the southern Pacific rim. I was surprised Solomons and Vanuatu got the same shares in the allocation; like you, I would have given more to PNG and Solomons followed by a good allocation to Vanuatu. Fiji already has well-established pathways to residence in Australia, as do Tonga and Samoa, including via NZ as you have pointed out in earlier blogs. I am surprised Tuvalu gets an allocation at this stage of 100 when the Falepili Union arrangement, with its provision for residence visas, is still under negotiation. It is the three western Melanesia countries that will benefit most from the PEV. These are three countries that need support with building transnational communities in Australia and New Zealand. As has been demonstrated in many studies of migration in the eastern and central Pacific, transnational communities have a vital role to play in providing a wider range of opportunities and options for individuals and families in their everyday responses to environmental, social and economic change.

  • Oh this is a good start. There are not many things, in my humble opinion, that would be of such value to PNG as a good strong functioning diaspora. PNG and Sols have long had some of the smallest diasporas on the planet, and they have become increasingly exceptional in the region. Bravo!

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