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Lepani calls Australia excluding PNG workers a "tragedy"

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 16) - Papua New Guinea says it should be considered first for any pilot seasonal labor scheme for Pacific Islander workers to come to Australia.

Radio Australia reporter Jemima Garrett said PNG’s high commissioner to Australia, Charles Lepani, had told a Sydney conference the exclusion of PNG would be a blow to relations between the two countries.

Reports have been circulating that Australia is considering approving a pilot seasonal labor scheme for Pacific Island workers, offering opportunities to workers from Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

But Mr. Lepani said if PNG was excluded, this would be a tragedy.

He says Australia has no reason to forget or exclude PNG from any initial pilot programs on seasonal labor.

Lepani said the Rudd Labour government had been doing all it could to normalize the relationship between Australia and PNG.

He said if PNG was left out of Australia’s pilot seasonal labor programs, this would be a test of the relationship.

Lepani says as the largest Pacific Island nation, PNG, Australia’s closest neighbor and an important security partner, should be considered first for a seasonal labor scheme.

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