19 months on from the pandemic and there are still around 40,000 Australians stuck overseas and unable to return home due to: 1) prohibitive arrivals caps and quarantine limits; and 2) extortionately expensive airfares and quarantine costs.
Rather than developing solutions to bring stranded Australians home, our politicians are more interested in importing cheap migrant workers for farmers:
International Development Minister Zed Seselja… will on Tuesday announce overhauls of the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program, broadening access to workers and removing barriers for farmers and businesses…
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Industry groups including AgForce, AusVeg and the National Farmers Federation are pushing for states and territories to adopt more flexible quarantine measures, including in homes and on farms…
Queensland has brought in more than 3000 Pacific workers after trialling on-farm quarantine.
On August 31, the Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory welcomed 162 ni-Vanuatu workers to support the mango harvest, while more than 200 Samoans will arrive on Sunday to fill gaps for farmers, aged care and hospitality operators.
About 10,600 workers from Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and East Timor have arrived in Australia since September last year…
Senator Seselja said that “given the very low Covid risk posed by many Pacific nations, there is a huge untapped opportunity for Australian employers to recruit workers from the region”…
Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Employment Minister Stuart Robert and Senator Seselja will announce the first in a series of reforms of the Pacific and seasonal worker programs on Tuesday to help meet the Prime Minister’s target of bringing an additional 12,500 Pacific workers to Australia by March.
The overhaul of the programs has been targeted at plugging emerging workforce gaps across regional Australia, with the agriculture, accommodation, aged care, hospitality and health sectors reporting labour shortages…
Clearly, helping stranded Australians to return to their own country is clearly less important to our governments than providing farms with cheap migrant labour.
It is interesting how grain harvesters have had few problems attracting local workers by offering decent wages:
Programmed Skilled Workforce has been campaigning to get 3000 Australians working on the grain harvest doing blue-collar jobs.
In just three weeks they’ve had almost 2000 applications.
“We’ve been really pleased with the take-up,” executive general manager David Hele said.
“It’s a big mix of different people. It’s younger applicants, mature ones, males and females, people who are out of work due to COVID. School leavers and travellers.”
The pay ranges from $27 to $35 per hour for an average 30-60 hour working week.
There was more interest from locals to take up these harvest jobs because there was less risk of being exploited, he said.
CBH has also recently filled 2000 harvest positions with local workers by paying a base rate of $29 an hour.
Last year we also heard that many Australian farms refuse to employ local workers because they have to be paid a legal wage and are far less easy to exploit than migrants.
This suggests that farms could source local ‘fruit pickers’ if they abandoned exploitative piecemeal rates in favour of decent hourly rates.
But why pay more when you can hire and exploit a temporary migrant?