“The Alternative Government of Papua New Guinea has some concerns about the proposed introduction of a new agriculture visa by the Australian Government. Any such scheme should ensure it does not undermine Australia’s people to people linkages with Pacific Island Countries (PIC’s), including Papua New Guinea “ said Ian Ling-Stuckey, PNG’s Shadow Minister for Treasury and Finance.

“Whilst Papua New Guinea appreciates the ongoing difficulties with a reliable pool of workers being available to the Australian horticultural and wider agriculture sector and the Australian government’s desire to introduce new initiatives to address labour shortages, recent debates in the PNG Parliament demonstrated both sides of politics clearly wanted to “step-up” the number of workers under the seasonal workers program (SWP). Whilst Papua New Guinea appreciates and supports Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, which talks about a “step-up” in its relationship with the Pacific, introducing a new unlimited agriculture visa kind of looks like a “step-down”, which we hope will not be the case, in relation to labour mobility. The Alternative Government hopes Australia’s new agriculture visa does not have the unintended effect of doors closing on better people-to-people links, just as all sides of PNG politics now wanted to open them” said the Shadow Treasurer.

“PNG understands the mutual gains from dramatically increasing PNG’s involvement in the Seasonal Workers Program (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS). PNG needs to diversify its economy and such labour mobility schemes were a clear way forward. If Vanuatu and Tonga could send thousands of workers to Australia, PNG could eventually send tens of thousands! However, this would take a few years to ensure the scheme didn’t grow too quickly. We’d want to build on the success of smaller teams of people going across, building on positive experiences, learning lessons along the way and most importantly, developing a trusting, productive and cooperative relationships, with employing A3ustralian farming businesses. An open-slab agriculture visa open to visitors from Asia may potentially, undermine this concrete example of Australia better engaging with the Pacific region” said Mr Ling-Stuckey.

“The Alternative Government have been a strong supporter of building win-win relationships between Australia and Papua New Guinea by supporting Australia’s agriculture sector to employ more of our very willing PNG workers. On the PNG side, we acknowledge that we have been slow to tap into the scheme’s potential. However, the recent bipartisan approach in Parliament and the assurance of the Member for Namatanai, Walter Schnaubelt and I on behalf of the PNG Opposition, that we are willing to support and work closely with the O’Niell-Abel Government and especially, Minister for Labour, Mehrra Kipefa and his department, clearly indicated we wanted to greatly lift PNG’s engagement with this Australian program.

I have also, been monitoring and personally involved with the labour mobility scheme since 6 July 2004, nearly 15 years ago, which then was still a concept, when the PNG national parliament endorsed myself as Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Pacific Economic Community, whose six terms of reference included enquiries into free movement of workers between Australia, New Zealand and other PIC’s.

If the schemes had been introduced back then, we would already have much stronger linkages which could have covered all the Australian agriculture labour needs and there probably wouldn’t have been a demand for a new agriculture visa. Who knows? The people of my electorate would also have been winners, with significant incomes brought back into the villages to help build better houses and start small businesses. From Australia’s perspective, these types of linkages are a powerful counter, if need be, to the growing influence of major powers in the region” said PNG’s Shadow Treasurer.

“Only last week, I had some very encouraging discussions with agriculture employers in Queensland on how workers from PNG and indeed, my Kavieng district in New Ireland could come and work for them in a clear win-win situation (see picture below). From the view of all sides of politics in PNG, as well as from the people in my electorate, it would be a shame if these possibilities were undermined by a new agriculture visa before they were given the chance to expand.”  said Mr Ling-Stuckey.

Hon.Ian Ling-Stuckey,CMG.MP
Shadow Minister for Treasury & Finance

 17 September 2018

PNG Shadow Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey visiting West Farms Beetroot Warehouse at Kalbar Township outside Ipswich on 12 September 2018.
L TO R: NARELLE WEST (NEE PEGG), DAVID LOKO FMR PNG HUNTERS PLAYER AND IAN LING-STUCKEY.

PNG Shadow Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey visiting West Farms Beetroot Warehouse at Kalbar Township outside Ipswich on 12 September 2018.
L TO R: BOAS RURU FROM KIMBE, IAN LING-STUCKEY, NARELLE WEST (NEE PEGG).

PNG Shadow Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey visiting West Farms Beetroot Warehouse at Kalbar Township outside Ipswich on 12 September 2018.
L TO R: BOAS RURU FROM WNB PROVINCE, IAN LING-STUCKEY, KEN WEST & JUNIOR YAMBE FROM ENGA PROVINCE.