Media Release: Monday, 18 August, 2008

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today welcomed the trial of a three-year seasonal workers’ scheme for Pacific Islanders and urged the Federal Government to ensure that it effectively generates economic benefits at a local community level.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace congratulated the Rudd Government on introducing the pilot scheme, saying that it will provide some valuable relief from the high unemployment and economic disadvantage in the four Pacific Islands to take part – Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

“This move is a very sensible one given Australia’s shortage of unskilled labour and the need to encourage regional stability,” Mr Wallace said.

“But even more importantly, it helps to address Australia’s moral and social responsibility to our poorer neighbours. We hope that, following the initial trial, the scheme will be extended to include all South West Pacific nations.”

Mr Wallace said that it is good to see that the scheme will be tightly regulated to ensure that the Pacific Islanders are properly paid and aren’t taking the jobs of local workers.

“For the scheme to be really effective in helping alleviate poverty in the Pacific Islands it is equally important that government agencies put time and resources into ensuring that the wealth generated really gets through to local communities in the Pacific Islands and, wherever possible, facilitates long-lasting economic benefits for individual workers and their communities,” he said.

“I urge the Government to work closely with aid agencies and church groups who are on the ground in order to reap the maximum benefit from the scheme.”

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan