In recent times, much has been said in relation to inflationary pressures on the cost of living which has been exacerbated by a kaleidoscope of pandemics, wars, supply chain interruptions, and natural disasters. One major contributing factor to price rises for fresh produce is also the acute shortage of labour in rural and remote agricultural areas. In response, the Government has recently introduced complementary programmes including the Agriculture Visa (AAV) which will form a part of the broader Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.
PALM is a scheme designed to attract skilled labours from Pacific Islands and Timor-Leste to fill low and semi-skilled labour shortages in Australia. As opposed to the standard-issue employment visas such as Sc482 or Sc186, PALM provides both the employer and employee a more flexible approach at a relatively lower cost. More importantly, red-tape is promised to be less a burden by comparison.
This scheme now extends to 10 countries: Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The advantages of the scheme are obvious. Australian businesses are largely relieved of tedious sponsorship and nomination requirements and can configure their rosters relatively quickly. For islanders, English and Skill Assessments would be less of a barrier. They will have wider access to Australia to develop their skills and remit earnings home to support families. The other advantage that the public may witness on the long-term basis is the future development of the relationships between Australia and the Island Nations.
The requirements appear to be quite friendly to businesses. Other than the geographical requirements, the scheme does not impose unreasonably onerous requirements. It may be said that the scheme is more focused on the credentials of the business, and protections afforded to employees in terms of financial security and work safety. In terms of employees, their requirements may vary depending on the offer they receive and the countries they are from, which is more flexible than the traditional employment visas’ generic requirements.
In general, the scheme is going well. Thousands of islanders and numerous Australian businesses have already benefited from the program since April 2022. However, criticism has not faded whilst the price of fresh produce edges higher as the scheme catches up to the compound issues that Covid-19 and 2 years of border closures have created. There is also a close watch on potential exploitation, underpayment, and harassment which have always been a source of commentary in the broader Australian migration programme. Nevertheless, the Government is still positive about the PALM. It is reasonable to expect that further improvements will take place in the near future.
Notwithstanding teething issues, PALM’s intended contribution to post-pandemic Australia must be appreciated. Given that the Government will invest more into the promotion and support of PALM and AAV, overseas workers from Pacific nations and a range of Australian business sectors should see more opportunities and connections in the months ahead.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice beforetaking any course of action.*
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