Tuesday, 19 August 2008 1:38 PM

Solomons Miss Out But Happy for Pacific Neighbours

Thousands of lucky Pacific Islanders, namely from Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea will now be allowed to live and work in Australia under a new guest worker plan.

The Guest Worker Pilot Scheme would allow up to 2, 500 Pacific Islanders to work for seven months in Australia in any 12-month period.

Australian Federal Agriculture Minister, Tony Burke, stated that the guest workers would be sent to help pick fruit and harvest vegetables and this would be filling "a chronic labour shortage in some parts of Australia."

The announcement comes ahead of Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd's attendance this week at the Annual Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Niue.

The Guest Worker Pilot Scheme has long been requested by Pacific Island nations. The scheme will set to begin at the end of the year and will be reviewed after 18 months.

Meanwhile, many Solomon Islanders have praised this initiative. Although Solomon Islands has missed out on this opportunity, many locals stated that Solomon Islands may also be given a chance in the future.

According to many Solomon Islanders who have worked in Apple farms in New Zealand under a similar scheme, they say it has been an opportunity that was 'too good to be true.' Since returning from New Zealand, many of the workers were able to build their houses, send their children to school and afford basic necessities for daily living.

Such a scheme could benefit greatly the Pacific Islanders.