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Pacific Labour Mobility

Pacific labour mobility is central to the Government’s commitment to build a stronger Pacific family.

It delivers jobs for Pacific and Timor-Leste workers, enabling them to develop skills, earn income and support their families back home. Pacific labour mobility also helps create strong links between people, businesses, and communities, fostering deeper connections between Australia and our neighbours.

Pacific and Timor-Leste workers help to fill labour gaps in regional and rural Australia and offer employers access to reliable, productive workers who also contribute to the cultural and economic vibrancy of regional and rural communities across Australia. 

The wellbeing of Pacific and Timor-Leste workers is a high priority for the Australian, Pacific and Timor-Leste governments. All workers are protected by the same workplace rights and laws as Australian workers, and additional measures are in place to support the welfare and wellbeing of workers while they live and work in Australia.

Countries currently participating in Pacific labour mobility are Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme

The PALM scheme is Australia’s key program to address unskilled, low-skilled and semi-skilled labour shortages across rural and regional Australia.  Under the scheme Australian businesses can hire workers from Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste when there are not enough local workers available. Once approved to participate in the PALM scheme, employers can recruit workers to fill positions for seasonal (short-term) of up to nine months or longer-term placements of between one and four years. Seasonal and longer-term workers can be employed in any sector and in all regional and rural postcodes, while all Australian businesses in the agriculture sector can participate in the scheme.     

The PALM scheme is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Department of Education and Workplace Relations (DEWR) with the support of the Pacific Labour Facility (PLF).

Expanding and improving the PALM scheme

The Australian Government has committed to strengthening Australia’s Pacific partnerships by delivering a comprehensive package of policy reforms to improve and expand the PALM scheme to secure our region and build a stronger Pacific family.

The Government has committed to allowing long-term PALM workers to bring their families to Australia commencing in 2023, and to making short term/seasonal deployments more attractive to Australian employers by reducing the burden of upfront travel costs.  The Australian Agriculture Visa (AAV) program will also be relocated under the PALM scheme.

The Government has also committed to improving administration of the scheme including:

  • reducing red tape for all PALM employers and reviewing administration and regulation of the scheme
  • improving workplace standards for PALM workers and implementing recommendations of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce
  • improving consultation with all stakeholders
  • more effectively promoting the scheme in the Pacific and Timor-Leste in cooperation with Pacific governments.

Government is seeking stakeholder input on these reforms. Please see the discussion paper for further information.

These reforms build on recent efforts to bring together what was formerly the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).  The two schemes were consolidated into the single, more flexible and efficient PALM scheme following calls from stakeholders over a six-week period between 10 June to 18 July 2021.  For further information on this consultation process, please see summary below.

A consultative approach to Pacific labour mobility

The Australian Government is committed to getting the PALM scheme’s settings right for employers, workers and our Pacific and Timor-Leste family alike. Formal consultation structures for the PALM scheme will guide the ongoing PALM scheme reform process.

Headed by the PALM Advisory Group, this consultative structure ensures that the Government has regular access to a broad range of perspectives from across industry, unions, civil society and our Pacific partners, as we reform the PALM scheme.

The PALM Advisory Group is supported by sector-specific committees in the key PALM sectors. These include the PALM Agriculture Committee, the PALM Meat Processing Committee and the PALM Care Committee. 

The appropriateness of the PALM scheme consultation approach will be reviewed on an ongoing basis as part of the government’s commitment to improve consultation with all PALM scheme stakeholders. 

Government will augment discussions through existing formal consultation structures with additional stakeholder consultations to guide the PALM scheme reform process.

For more information about the PALM scheme please visit Pacific Australia Labour Mobility.

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