Reforms to benefit employers, workers and countries alike under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme have been announced today by the Liberal-National Government.
Pacific labour mobility continues to deliver for Australian employers and Pacific and Timor-Leste workers, and new reforms build on the Australian Government’s earlier commitment to merge the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).
The changes demonstrate the Government’s commitment to getting the settings right – building capacity to address immediate and long-term workforce shortages; ensure worker protections; and reform and improve delivery.
Minister for the Pacific and International Development, Senator the Hon Zed Seselja said with close to 23,000 Pacific and Timor-Leste workers now in Australia, labour mobility has been a lifeline for Australian businesses and for labour sending countries during the COVID-19 pandemic..
“The improvements that come into effect today will make it easier for employers to continue accessing the labour they need while enhancing benefits and protections for workers,” Minister Seselja said.
Among the reforms introduced today are:
· single visa for seasonal and long-term workers from the Pacific islands and Timor-Leste;
· supports for workers to return home and reconnect with their family and community;
· optional longer-term work visa;
· removal of recruitment caps for existing employers with a good track record;
· enhanced regional presence to support employers and workers, including relationship managers who will cover every state and territory;
· removal of restrictions on sectors able to recruit seasonal workers, meaning all employers with seasonal workforce needs in regional and rural Australia can apply to access the scheme;
· piloting a new pathway to increase the volume of qualified Pacific aged care workers, through a partnership between DFAT, Australian Pacific Training Coalition and aged care employers;
· exploring the feasibility of expanding the scheme into new sectors, such as aquaculture, disability care and construction;
· establishment of a red tape reduction working group to reduce bureaucracy for employers while maintaining strong protections for workers;
· commitment to deliver the new PALM scheme deed and guidelines by mid-2022; and
· delivering an improved IT Platform alongside the new PALM Deed and Guidelines which will deliver efficiencies for employers and Pacific governments.
The Government will also conduct a review of worker welfare and assurance measures commencing next month to identify best practice approaches. Recommendations in response to stakeholder feedback will be incorporated into the new PALM scheme deed and guidelines for implementation from mid-2022.
“Workers are the backbone of the PALM scheme, and their wellbeing is of central importance to Australia and participating Pacific and Timor-Leste governments,” said Minister Seselja.
“A review into worker welfare and the chance to consult widely on a revised Deed of Agreement will help to improve conditions and protections for workers, while identifying opportunities to reduce red tape for employers.”
Stakeholders will have the opportunity to contribute to continuous improvement of the scheme through the consultation structures established to guide the reform.
Further information about the PALM scheme can be found at: www.palmscheme.gov.au.
SENATOR THE HON ZED SESELJ
Minister for International Development and the Pacific
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