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Papua New Guinea pledges 8000 workers for Australia’s Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape at a press conference in PNG.
Camera IconAustralian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape at a press conference in PNG. Credit: Supplied

Papua New Guinea has pledged to send an additional 8000 workers to Australia as part of an expansion of a foreign worker scheme designed to fill chronic labour shortages in the agriculture sector.

The announcement comes after Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s historic visit to PNG this month, where he became the first foreign head of government to address PNG’s national parliament.

While defence dominated the agenda, Mr Albanese and PNG Prime Minister James Marape also declared their intention to “significantly boost” PNG’s participation in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme.

Of the 35,195 PALM scheme workers in Australia as of December 31, 1194 hailed from PNG.

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Federal Agricultural Minister Murray Watt welcomed the announcement, which he said followed months of work by officials from both countries.

“As our closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea is such an important partner to the Australian agriculture sector,” Mr Watt said.

“I particularly welcome the announcement of Prime Minister Marape’s ambition to deploy 8000 PALM workers to Australia.

“The PALM scheme is rapidly growing and helping farmers and meat processors across Australia to fill gaps in their workforce.

“At the same time, the scheme assists Pacific workers earn important income which supports their families back home.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt welcomed the announcement to significantly boost PNG’s participation in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme.
Camera IconFederal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt welcomed the announcement to significantly boost PNG’s participation in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme. Credit: Supplied

The PALM scheme was introduced by the Morrison Government in 2018 to attract citizens of nine Pacific Islands nations and Timor Leste to work in regional Australia.

The scheme — which was recently expanded to include metropolitan meat, seafood, fruit and vegetable processors — allows eligible workers to be employed for up to nine months in seasonal jobs or four years in unskilled, low-skilled and semi-skilled positions.

Vanuatu accounts for the most PALM workers with 10,173, followed by Tonga (5738), Fiji (4449), Samoa (4760), Timor Leste (4002), Solomon Islands (3993), PNG (1194), Kiribati (842), Tuvalu (41) and Nauru (three).

There are currently 3472 PALM workers in WA, but the Federal Government was unable to provide State-by-State figures according to nationality when requested by Countryman.

A Government spokesman told Countryman no timeframe had been determined for when the extra PNG workers would arrive in WA.

He said Mr Albanese held “constructive discussions” with Mr Marape and full details of the commitment would be subject to further discussions between Mr Watt and PNG Agriculture Minister John Simon.

The Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, said the PALM scheme was central to the Albanese Government’s strategy to ensure Australia was “a partner of choice” for the Pacific region.

“This will be good news for Australian farmers facing labour shortages and for PNG workers who will gain skills and income to support their families and communities back home,” Mr Conroy said.

Federal Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, arrives in PNG.
Camera IconFederal Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, arrives in PNG. Credit: Supplied

“In a region where more than one third of people live on less than $1000 per year, long-term PALM workers send home an average of $15,000.

“This is lifting Pacific families out of poverty, sustaining communities and boosting economies devastated by the impact of COVID.”

Another focus of the discussions between Mr Albanese and Mr Marape was support for PNG’s plans to expand its agricultural production and build on Australia’s investment in infrastructure, commodity development and biosecurity in PNG.

Mr Watt said the announcements offered significant potential for both countries to expand their agricultural production.

“It is great to see these channels of opportunity begin to open up,” he said.

Mr Watt said strengthening the biosecurity capability of both nations — another focus of the discussions between the two leaders — was also vital.

“We need to be incredibly vigilant, particularly with exotic animal disease outbreaks such as foot-and-mouth disease and lumpy skin disease in Indonesia,” he said.

“If left uncontrolled, there is a risk these diseases could spread through PNG and come to Australia.

“That’s why last year the Albanese Government provided $5 million in funding to provide technical expertise and support to PNG to assist their work in combatting livestock diseases.”

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