Australia Welcomes Participation In Pacific Seasonal Work Program

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Marles says program may pay workers up to $12,615 per season

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, August 1, 2012) – Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Richard Marles, has told an international conference to launch the Pacific Seasonal Worker Program that the permanent program has a bright future.

Mr. Marles says under the program, 12,000 workers will be able to come to Australia over the next 4 years.

This week 150 delegates, including 40 from Pacific Island countries, have gathered in Sydney to hear how the Seasonal Worker Program will develop.

Mr. Marles says teething problems which resulted in disappointing numbers during the initial pilot have been addressed, and he is confident all 12,000 visas on offer will be filled.

He told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the program, which is open to 8 Pacific countries as well as East Timor, is a win-win for economic development in Australia and the region.

"[The program] is going to make a real difference first of all the Australian economy, it really is going to make a huge difference to the productivity of our horticulture industry and other pilot industries," Mr. Marles said.

"But I can't tell you how important that is for the countries from which these workers come. On average they will be earning AU$12,000 [US$12,615] a season.

"This is revolution in terms of opportunity it provides these workers, and the prosperity it will provide for them back home."

Since the Australian Government first set up its pilot Seasonal Work Program in 2009 1,500 workers have come from Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Kiribati to work in the horticulture industry.

Mr. Marles says horticulture will continue to play a central role in the program, which will include pilot schemes in the cotton, sugar cane, aquaculture industries and accommodation.

The program will also incorporate a tourism scheme for East Timorese workers.

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