Media Release: Tuesday, 29 January, 2008

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today said that it was disappointed that a guest worker scheme for Pacific Islanders appears to have been put on the back burner and urged the Federal Government to give it higher priority.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said Australia has both a strategic and moral responsibility to assist the South West Pacific and that a guest worker scheme could provide some valuable relief from the high unemployment and economic disadvantage in those nations.

“Assisting South West Pacific nations through a guest worker scheme would not only be strategically important in terms of regional stability, but also in helping to address Australia’s moral and social responsibility to our poorer neighbours given the large wealth imbalance,” Mr Wallace said.

“It makes even greater sense during a time when Australia is experiencing a shortage of unskilled labour.”

Mr Wallace asked the Federal Government to give further consideration to the issue and to examine the model offered by a similar scheme operating in New Zealand.

“We understand the need to deal with industrial relations issues first, but hope this won’t defer action on a guest worker scheme indefinitely.”

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan