Australian Government delivers on expanding the Pacific workforce – six monthly early

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The Albanese Government has reached a major milestone – six months ahead of schedule – with more than 35,000 Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) workers now in Australia.

In the October 2022 Budget, the Government committed to reaching 35,000 workers by June 2023. Latest data shows the milestone was reached in December.

When the Government came to office the total number of PALM workers in Australia was just over 24,400, as at the end of May 2022. As a result of the Government’s work to expand and improve PALM, the total number of workers has risen to over 35,100, as of the end of December 2022. This is an increase of 44 per cent in just seven months.

Reaching this milestone early demonstrates the Government’s commitment to immediately addressing long-standing workforce issues across key sectors in the Australian economy.

PALM workers are earning incomes, developing skills and filling workforce shortages across 28 industries, including agriculture, food processing, accommodation and hospitality and aged care.

The scheme is vital for filling workplace shortages in regional Australia, ensuring businesses can continue supporting their communities when there are limited local workers available.

Workers are employed under the same industry awards and legislation as Australian workers. PALM Approved Employers must meet stringent criteria to participate, including compliance with workplace regulations and health and safety laws.

Workers from nine Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste are participating in the scheme, which is boosting economies and lifting families out of poverty. In a region where more than one third of people live on less than $1,000 (US$714) per year, long term PALM workers send home an average of $15,000 (US$10,716) each.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “My Government is delivering on its commitment to reform and expand PALM and is already six months ahead of schedule.

“I was pleased to meet with PALM workers when I visited Fiji in July of last year, seeing firsthand the people who will make significant contributions to Australia’s workforce.

“This scheme is a practical measure that shows our respect for the Pacific and will build a stronger Pacific family,” he said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong said: “The PALM scheme is improving lives, mitigating critical skills shortages and contributing to the economic resilience of the region.

“We will continue to work with Pacific partners to achieve our shared aspirations,” she said.

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Tony Burke said: “The wellbeing and working conditions of Pacific and Timorese workers in the PALM scheme is of central importance to the Australian government.”

“Site visits, a 24-hour PALM support line, and regular employer reporting are features of the compliance framework, with additional compliance activities funded in the Fair Work Ombudsman,” he said

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt said: “Reaching our commitment of 35,000 PALM scheme workers in Australia six months early demonstrates our commitment to immediately addressing the long-standing workforce issues in the agricultural industry.

These workers are now providing important skills and labour in our agricultural sector, helping Australian farmers and meat processors fill gaps in their workforce,” he said.

Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy said: “With the money they’re earning in Australia these workers are building new homes, putting children through school and kick-starting businesses in their home countries. It’s been heartening to see the impact on the ground – from Solomon Islands to Vanuatu.”

“The Albanese Government is making a significant contribution to Pacific economies, over and above our development program – which is highly valued by the leaders I’ve met across the Pacific,” he said.

SOURCE: AUST GOVT/PACNEWS