Red tape cut on Pacific worker programs

The Federal Government has announced the first stage of reforms to Australia's labour mobility programs. Picture: FILE

By Aaron Goodwin

The Federal Government has announced the first stage of reforms to Australia’s labour mobility programs – the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) – which will make the programs easier to access, protect worker welfare, and better meet regional Australia’s workforce needs.

The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) website (palmscheme.gov.au) has been established for employers to apply to join the PLS and SWP through a single application.

The centrepiece of the reform is a single streamlined application process for both the PLS and SWP offering more flexibility and less red tape.

This PALM aims to ensure the Pacific labour programs continue to meet critical worker shortages and remain the Australian Government’s leading workforce program into the future.

Eligible approved employers will also have their status recognised for both programs.

In addition, the SWP and PLS have become more flexible so they can better respond to the needs of employers and workers, by:

-Allowing PLS workers to be recruited in more locations across regional Australia by reducing postcode restrictions to better align with the SWP;

-Increasing the validity period for labour market testing from six months to 12 months, reducing red tape for employers;

-Doubling recruitment caps for SWP approved employers with a good record that also have financial capacity to support additional worker arrivals;

-Enabling accommodation businesses like hotels and resorts to employ SWP workers to support peak seasons in tourism across rural and regional Australia; and

-Allowing PLS workers who have spent three years in Australia to continue working for an additional 12 months while Covid-19 travel restrictions remain in place.

Hinkler MP Keith Pitt welcomed the changes, local growers have used to ensure they have a reliable workforce.

“These measures will reduce red tape for employers as well as provide training opportunities for workers and fund initiatives to safeguard worker welfare,” Mr Pitt said.

“A majority of current employers in the SWP and the PLS will be able to join the other program, providing they are eligible and wish to do so.

”They’ll then be able to recruit under either or both programs.

”New employers will be able to apply to join both streams through a single application via a new one-stop-shop website.

“The PALM scheme website also has information for employers, community stakeholders and people in the Pacific and Timor-Leste considering work opportunities in Australia.

“A new skills program for workers to access training while in Australia to support worker development has been established and funding for initiatives that safeguard worker welfare has been extended.

“A new PALM Advisory Group has also been established to build on work done in recent years to grow Pacific labour mobility to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Since the PLS and SWP started in September last year, more than 10,600 Pacific and Timorese workers have arrived from participating countries.

The changes will support the Australian Government’s commitment to bring an extra 12,500 workers to Australia by March next year, with 27,000 workers already in the work-ready pool.