Australia Denies Trying To Delay Seasonal Workers Agreement Between Vanuatu, Tasmania

Vanuatu MPs allege 'bureaucrats in Canberra' are preventing Memorandum of Agreement

By Len Garae

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, June 2, 2017) – “The Australian Government has not sought to delay the progress of any agreement between the two parties (State Government of Tasmania and Vanuatu).

“Vanuatu’s sovereignty has not been impinged upon at any stage of these negotiations.

“Such an agreement would be an expression of the respective parties’ commitment to cooperating to maximise the benefits of the SWP.

“Vanuatu’s ability to send workers under the Programme is not affected by the absence of an agreement.”

Second Secretary to the Australian High Commission, Malcolm Paterson, makes the clarification to answer to allegations raised by Parliamentary Secretaries MP John Sala (for Fisheries) and MP Andrew Napuat (for Internal Affairs), blaming the alleged delay to finalising a memorandum of understanding between Tasmania and Vanuatu, on “bureaucrats” in Canberra.

He says since the inception of Seasonal Worker Programme’s as a pilot programme in 2008, the Australian Government has been a strong advocate and supporter of the SWP.

It continues to provide a valuable source of employment and remittances for Vanuatu and other participating Pacific Island countries, and Timor-Leste while addressing labour shortages in key sectors in Australia.

Vanuatu has nearly 2000 ni-Vanuatu workers participating in the SWP so far this year, nearly 800 more than last year.

Vanuatu workers have gained a reputation in Australia for a strong work ethic and adhering to high standards of behaviour, which has, in turn, increased demand for their services.

In addition, the Second Secretary says Australia takes the welfare of seasonal workers very seriously. The Australian Government has put in place a series of measures to ensure workers’ rights are protected.

“Any employer who is under investigation for alleged breaches of Australian law is suspended from receiving seasonal workers until the investigation has concluded.

“We are mindful that this may affect seasonal workers who have been placed on Vizzarri Farms, but their safety and the integrity of the SWP are too important to put at risk,” he advises.

“The approved employer, who arranged the placement of workers on Vizzarri Farms, is still able to recruit and place ni-Vanuatu workers with other host businesses.

“The Australian Government is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile discussions between the Government of Vanuatu and the State Government of Tasmania about a possible agreement have been underway since the Minister of Internal Affairs, Alfred Maoh, visited Tasmania in November of 2016.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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