QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Wednesday 29 August 2018
WHY ARE PNG CITIZENS NOT PARTICIPATING MEANINGFULLY, IN AUSTRALIA’S SEASONAL WORKER PROGRAM (SWP)?
Thankyou Mr Speaker!
My series of questions without notice are directed to the Minister for Labour.
Mr Speaker, the PNG government is missing out on a wonderful, wonderful opportunity, to facilitate, that is, organize with very minimal financial assistance required from the State, conduct awareness programs and encourage, if not gently push, our people to engage with the Australian governments seasonal worker program, commonly referred to as SWP. How often have we heard from our people, far and wide, ‘we don’t want cash handouts-we want a job!’
Mr Speaker, the Seasonal Workers Program (SWP), was endorsed by the Australian government as a pilot program from 2008 and is growing very rapidly to have reached 8,452 placements in 2017-18. Indeed, Professor Stephen Howes of the ANU considers that one of the greatest achievements of the former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, was allowing the program to develop with the nine participating Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste. We should thank her for creating this opportunity.
And it is a wonderful opportunity for our people. A World Bank report in 2017, confirmed that 6,166 pacific islanders had participated in the program in 2017 alone, earning and sending home on average, after tax & all expenses, a total of AUD$8,850.00 or about K21,000.00 at yesterday’s exchange rate, for 6 months work.
Mr Speaker, I am very concerned however that PNG is not rising to meet this wonderful opportunity. The 2017 WB report also produced some alarming statistics. For example last year in 2017 alone, Tonga with a population of about 107,000 people, which is smaller then New Ireland’s population, successfully engaged 2,690 of its citizens in Australia sending home AUD$26.253 million in foreign exchange, or about K64 million! Sadly, the WB report does not quote the number of PNG citizens participating in the SWP because our numbers are too small! But I understand from statistics provided by the Australian DFAT and Dr Richard Curtain from the ANU, that only 139 PNG citizens took part last year and even less this year!
Mr Speaker my Questions are:
- Minister, can you provide a detailed explanation on why Papua New Guinea, by far, the largest Pacific Island Country (PIC), can send only 139 workers to Australia in 2016-17, whilst Tonga, one of the smallest island nations, can send 2,690 workers?
- Minister can you provide a detailed listing of all PNG citizens that have participated in the SWP, since its inception in 2008 and advise this Parliament, the break-up of all workers by district, so that we can all be assured, that there is a fair and balanced representation for all districts.
- What detailed plans does the Department of Labour, have to substantially increase the number of PNG citizens, taking account of the suggestions made by Dr Curtain from the ANU in the latest PNG Update at UPNG, the opportunity to work under the SWP in Australia and is your Ministry, willing to adopt a bipartisan approach, to solving some of these bottlenecks because, both the Member for Namatanai and I, are available to practically assist and provide advice, to your good Ministry-FOC-FREE OF CHARGE!
- Finally, at the forthcoming meeting of the Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting occurring in Solomon Islands from 10-12 September, will the Minister be participating and if so, is the Minister willing to support the next meeting to be held in Kavieng in 2019, where the Kvg District Development Authority would be pleased to co-host the event, if practical.
Thank you Mr Speaker!
SHADOW MINISTER FOR TREASURY & FINANCE
source–world bank.2018.maximizing the development impacts from temporary migration: recommendations for australias seasonal license.