Wednesday, 16 June 2021
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Pacific Labour Mobility
I thank Senator McLachlan for his question. I note his home state of South Australia's wonderful leadership in supporting Pacific labour mobility. As we all respond to COVID-19 and look at economic recovery, I want to reiterate that there has never been a more important time for Australia to stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners across the Pacific. The Seasonal Worker Program and the Pacific Labour Scheme have been instrumental in helping to address critical workforce shortages in rural and regional communities. There are now more than 12,000 Pacific and Timorese workers in Australia, with another 27,000 in the work-ready pool. In fact, Pacific labour has been the lifeblood for many Australian businesses and has ensured fresh fruit and vegetables have reached our supermarkets and our tables, and the Australian government values the contribution that Pacific workers have made to our economy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus workforce shortages in critical sectors, including agriculture, and highlighted the importance of Pacific labour. Since the restart of COVID-safe recruitment of Pacific workers in September 2020, more than 7,400 Pacific workers have arrived and supported our horticulture and meat-processing sectors, and 2,700 further recruitments are currently being planned. More than 5,000 Pacific and Timorese workers stayed in Australia, working, during COVID. The Australian government is grateful to these thousands of Pacific and Timor-Leste workers for choosing to work in Australia and for helping Australian businesses in our time of need. They're far from home and far from their family, their communities and their 'one talks', and I acknowledge the sacrifice they are making right now.
These programs are delivering for Australian farmers, for Australian consumers and for our Pacific family. For our part, the Australian government is committed to the future of Pacific labour mobility and seeing workers and employers benefit from these highly successful programs.