Australian farmers will now be able to employ workers from the Pacific Region, including Solomon Islands and East Timor under a permanent Seasonal Worker Program.

This was recently announced by Australia's Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten MP, Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson AM MP, and Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd.

The $21.7 million Seasonal Worker Program will begin on 1 July 2012 and builds on the
success of the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme.

"Australian employers in the horticulture sector unable to source enough local Australian
workers will now be able to access a reliable, returning seasonal workforce," Minister
Shorten said.

"This valuable program contributes to economic development in participating countries,
while offering Australian employers seasonal staffing help when needed.

"Employers will now have certainty at harvest time and seasonal workers will be able to
improve their skills and have a level of financial security."

Foreign Minister Rudd said the decision to fund a permanent program provides a clear
indication of Australia's commitment to development and engagement with the Pacific
region and East Timor.

"This program will provide valuable economic opportunities for workers from the Pacific
region and East Timor and will make a real difference for them and their communities,"
said Mr Rudd.

"Today's announcement is an important signal to our regional neighbours East Timor,
Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and
Vanuatu of Australia's commitment to their economic development."

Minister Ferguson said the Australian Government will also carry out a small-scale,
three-year trial with accommodation providers in the tourism industry.

"The tourism industry currently has around 36,000 vacancies. Severe labour shortages
are more pronounced in regional areas where the sector is competing for workers with
the booming resources sector," Minister Ferguson said.

"This three year trial will make a real difference for the tourism industry, both here in
Australia and in the region as tourism is a primary source of employment and economic

"It is a win-win outcome that will allow Australian tourism operators to help meet labour
requirements particularly in peak seasons, while also improving workforce skills through
education and training for workers from Pacific countries and East Timor, which in turn
helps them to compete globally.

"The Seasonal Worker Program extends the wider program of engagement and cooperation
between Australia, the Pacific and East Timor to promote economic growth."

Cotton and cane growers as well as fishing operators will also be included in the small
scale trial.

Australian employers will be required to demonstrate they have a commitment to
employing Australian job seekers as a first priority, employ seasonal workers in
accordance with Australian work standards, and contribute to their travel costs.

Approved employers will manage the recruitment and placement of seasonal workers
with the businesses unable to find Australian labour.

Source: Press Release, Australian High Commission, Solomon Islands