NAURU, 6 September – SOLOMON Islands has welcomed Australian Government’s new initiative on the Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme following an official signing of agreement ceremony held this week at the Pacific Islands Forum’s Civic Center building in Nauru.
Prime Minister, Hon. Rick Houenipwela and Australia’s newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Senator Marise Payne signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will provide Solomon Islands workers with opportunities to gain valuable skills and income, and assist businesses in rural and regional Australia.
Speaking to Sunday Isles, Prime Minister welcomed the benefits of the newly signed agreement and added that the signing of the MOU was a continued effort previous agreed upon by the former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull in Canberra this year.
“Its a win, win situation for both Australian farmers and SI workers…..Its a very good agreement based on labour mobility with SI and Australian Government to ensure an increase in the number of Solomon Islands seasonal workers both semi-skilled and skilled workers to work in Australia.
“At the moment, we have only 270 SI seasonal workers in Australia but I want to increase the number to 5000 over the next 5-10 years.
“However, I expect the Solomon Islands people that will apply under the seasonal workers scheme to be good ambassadors when on work in Australia,” the Prime Minister said.
The new labour mobility scheme is an integral part of Australia’s efforts to promote greater economic cooperation with the Pacific, and help strengthen the region’s economic resilience.
Solomon Islands and other Pacific Island countries and smaller states have over the year contributed to Australia’s economy by filling roles Australian businesses have proven they cannot fill with local workers.
Meanwhile, Foreign and Trade Minister, Payne thanked Solomon Islands, Samoa and Vanuatu for maintaining a strong alliance and friendship.
“Thank you very much for your support and engagement with Australia as we continue to build on our friendship into the future.
“The signing particularly reflects the closest relationships we have with our Pacific neighbors and also our success of Australia’s pilot and seasonal workers programs.
As Australia’s new’s appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, I believe that it’s a wonderful opportunity to be here in the Pacific with our friends, our neighbors and our Pacific family in my first international visit under my new role and its a honor for me to participate in this official signing ceremony,” she told the leaders of the respective countries.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister including both the Prime Ministers of Samoa and Vanuatu have joined the signing of the Australia’s Pacific Labour Scheme at the 49th Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru.
Senator Payne also highlighted a win-win situation for Australia and the respective countries signatory to the new agreement.
“We think it is a win – win for Australia and the Pacific…It helps Australia’s businesses meet their need for reliable and quality workers in the fantastic rural and regional parts of Australia – where businesses are doing fine without Australian workers…and which has delivered around $144 million in their income gains back to their Pacific Island countries.
“Today we have seen over 25,000 workers from the Pacific travel to Australia for work and have benefited from the incomes earn from the scheme and we will extend over time to other Pacific Islands countries.
“Under this new scheme, we will provide seasonal workers with pre-departure, on arrival, ongoing and pastoral care support to ensure success of the program….am looking forward in working closely together with you as Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade as the scheme grows,” she added.
The Pacific Labour Scheme commenced on 1 July 2018. Workers from Solomon Islands, Samoa and Vanuatu will now join those from Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu to undertake non seasonal work in rural and regional Australia.
The scheme has an initial cap of up to 2,000 workers in 2018-19, and includes measures to protect Pacific workers and Australian jobs.