Pacific Australia Labour Mobility

The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Seasonal Worker Program (PALM – SWP) allows Pacific nationals to work in Australia for up to nine months in the agriculture sector where farmers cannot secure local labour.

The PALM – SWP program provides economic benefits to Australia by easing the impact of farm labour shortages and to Pacific countries by providing a source of remittance income.

Labor will make PALM – SWP more attractive to Australian farmers and Pacific workers. We will tackle the exploitation and mistreatment of temporary migrant workers which has been undermining the reputation of Australia’s Pacific labour mobility programs in Pacific countries.

Labor’s reforms to the PALM – SWP program include:

  • The Australian Government will meet SWP workers’ international and domestic travel costs upfront (less $300 to be met by approved employers), with costs recovered from workers through the tax system.
    • At present Australian farmers are required to meet workers’ travel costs upfront and recover it from workers’ pay packets. Farmers have said the high upfront travel costs are a disincentive for using the SWP.
    • The new arrangement will mean farmers will no longer face upfront costs any higher than $300 for recruiting Pacific workers. Workers will be no worse off given they already repay travel costs through pay deductions.
    • The Government will recover the travel costs from workers either through an increase in the withholding tax rate or a deduction from their departing Australia superannuation payment. The policy will commence in January 2023.
  • Reviewing SWP administrative costs and regulatory requirements with a view to reducing the red-tape burden on SWP employers.
  • Extending the duration of PALM – SWP visas from nine to 11 months to improve flexibility.
  • Improving consultation with farm employers, labour hire firms, industry associations, unions and Pacific community and diaspora groups on the PALM – SWP program.
  • Greater promotion of the PALM – SWP program in Pacific countries in cooperation with Pacific governments.

Labor will also improve workplace standards for PALM – SWP visa holders by increasing workplace compliance activities and implementing the recommendations of the Migrant Worker Taskforce, including:

  • Developing a whole of government approach to the information and education needs of vulnerable migrant workers.
  • Amending the Fair Work Act to strengthen workplace protections for temporary migrant workers.
  • Improving the Fair Work Ombudsman’s ability to gather information and investigate mistreatment of migrant workers.
  • Establishing a firewall between the Department of Home Affairs and Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure migrant workers are protected when reporting cases of abuse.
  • Working with State and Territory Governments and local councils on accommodation issues affecting temporary migrant workers.

Expanding the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Pacific Labour Scheme (PALM – PLS)

The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Pacific Labour Scheme program (PALM – PLS) allows Pacific nationals to work in Australia for between one and four years in rural and regional Australia.

At present Pacific workers under the PALM – PLS are not allowed to bring family members to Australia. Labor will allow primary visa holders in the PALM – PLS to bring their partners and children to Australia. This is designed to boost participation in PALM – PLS, increasing its benefits to Pacific nations and Australian employers. The expansion would bring the PALM – PLS into line with Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visas.

The same conditions applying to TSS family members would apply to PLS family members:

  • Secondary visas available for partners and dependent children.
  • Employer sponsor must agree.
  • Family members to meet health and character requirements and have health insurance.
  • Secondary visa holders entitled to live, work and study in Australia (but not to receive government assistance for studying).

The changes would apply to PALM – PLS workers but not to PALM – SWP workers, reflecting the longer stays of PLS workers in Australia. The policy will commence in January 2023.

Pacific Australia Labour Mobility – Agriculture Stream

We will relocate the proposed Agriculture Visa to sit as a third visa stream under the PALM. This will create a robust and sustainable four-year visa, with portability, strong oversight mechanisms, protections and rights for workers.

These protections will be consistent with the protections under the PALM-PLS and PALM-SWP. This will complement the PALM-SWP by providing a visa allowing Pacific workers to return to Australia each harvest season for up to four years.

Boosting Pacific permanent migration

Labor will boost permanent migration from Pacific countries to Australia by creating a new Pacific Engagement Visa for nationals of Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste.

Up to 3,000 visas would be allocated annually by a ballot or lottery process modelled on the New Zealand Pacific Access Resident Category visa.

Places would be allocated from within the overall permanent migration program. Detailed design of the scheme will be undertaken in Government based on the following features of the NZ model:

  • Applicants to be aged between 18 and 45 years.
  • Applicants can include their partners and dependent children up to 24 years of age.
  • Applicants or their partners must have a job offer in Australia.
  • English language, character and health tests to be met.
  • Applicants selected by ballot have eight months to obtain a full-time job offer.
  • Country-specific quotas within an overall quota of up to 3,000 places a year.

Applications will be open to Pacific nationals in their home countries or who are in Australia on a valid temporary visa. The program will commence in July 2023.