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Saturday, February 21, 2009

First Pacific island Fruit Pickers arrive in Australia

Above - Tongan fruit pickers arrive with much fanfare.

From "The SMH"
THE Opposition is calling for an urgent review of the Pacific Island guest worker scheme amid rising unemployment and with the summer harvest well under way.
Yesterday 50 Tongan workers arrived in Australia among the first of 2500 unskilled migrants from Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Tonga promised harvesting work in Swan Hill and Griffith for up to seven months a year.
Since the scheme was announced last August, however, circumstances have changed. Unemployment is forecast to rise to 7 per cent by next year and bushfires have scorched farmland in Victoria.

The Opposition spokeswoman on immigration, Sharman Stone, said the plan, which was modelled on a similar trial in New Zealand, had been bungled from the start.
"This is an enormous embarrassment for Australia in the Pacific," she said.

"We have led these nations to believe there are 2500 opportunities to earn good money in Australia to send back to communities in the Pacific but instead we've had massive bungling and inefficiency."
The almond-picking jobs available for the first 50 arrivals are in Robinvale, a town of 2200 in Victoria's Swan Hill region. Growers in the NSW Riverina can also apply for temporary workers from overseas.

Dr Stone said that Australians, particularly those hurt in the economic downturn, should be first in line for jobs.
"Picking almonds at Robinvale may be just the sort of work our self-funded retirees may be looking to do," she said. "We really have to look at Australia's unemployed first."
The Agriculture Minister, Tony Burke, defended the scheme, saying Australians did not want the seasonal work.
"It never mattered what the unemployment rate was. The farmers have been complaining for decades about trying to get enough workers to pick the fruit," he said.
Mr Burke repeated the imagery of fruit rotting on trees to illustrate why farmers wanted the scheme. At that time, the Government said fruit pickers would arrive before Christmas.

The chief executive of Summerfruit, John Moore, yesterday welcomed the first workers but was disappointed they had not arrived sooner. "Finally something has begun to happen," he said. "Hopefully, in the future the workers arrive at an appropriate time in the season, not at the end."

Mr Burke and the Minister for Employment, Julia Gillard, admitted demand for overseas workers was less than expected. Only four growers from the designated trial areas had registered interest and demand was likely to slow.

Our Comments....
We in PNG are always the last in everything. With the current state of the economy, it seems there will be no chance for PNGeans to contribute to the PI fruit pickers concept. Even if the economy was OK, we doubt we would have had our chances.
Instead of fruit picking, PNG should:
1. Invest heavily in technical education - mining, engineering, and others. Export them to the world and have some for our economy.
2. Invest heavily in medical jobs - doctors, scientists, nurses, carers, pilots and keep some for PNG, some for the world.
3. Invest in Agriculture, agricculture, agriculture and agriculture. We will have fruits to pick then. Also, during this recession, agriculture will stand firm.
4. If our fruit pickers do not make, cop it in the head, we will work harder.

We already have record number of PNG workers in medical, mining and other jobs in Australia. Most are doing well.

1 comment:

WAECA said...

What we are saying is that, our fruit pickers can not make it, our professionals can. We should train more professionals. We have six million people in PNG. That is our strenght.