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ANZ should go the extra mile on Labour Mobility

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SOLOMON Islands’ trade negotiations envoy, Robert Sisilo, has appealed to Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) to go the extra mile and commit to binding rules on labour mobility just as the Forum Island Countries will do in other areas of PACER Plus.

“Since all Island Countries will be expected to make binding commitments to reduce or eliminate their import duties on ANZ exports and hence lose much needed revenue, it is only fair that ANZ do likewise on labour mobility,” Mr Sisilo said.

“This would ensure that the prospect of island countries recouping their foregone revenue is secure and predictable,” he added.

 Mr Sisilo did not stop there but went on to seek an increase in the number of participating workers and sectors in both labour schemes that must include, without exception, all island countries.  

While there is an annual cap of 8000 workers in the NZ scheme, there is roughly a cap of 3000 workers in the Australian scheme.

“Surely there is scope for an increase in the numbers, particularly in the Australian scheme and coverage, in the case of the NZ scheme which only covers horticulture and viticulture. 

“The inclusion of four new sectors (accommodation, aquaculture, cane and cotton) under the Australian scheme is a step in the right direction and we welcome that,” Mr Sisilo, also the lead spokesperson for Island Countries on PACER Plus, said.  

The island countries are particularly interested in areas such as mining, construction, hospitality and healthcare. 

And it is not disputed that ANZ have labour shortages in these critical areas, and that the island countries have the surplus labour to fill the gaps. 

The inclusion of semi-skilled occupations would generate substantial benefits when the workers return to their countries of origin.

“Given the importance of labour mobility to all island countries, we should be creative, think outside the box and come up with an agreement that would ensure that PACER Plus fulfills its core objective of facilitating the economic growth and sustainable development of all Forum Island Countries. 

“And we need to be practical here if PACER Plus is going to be a win-win for all of us,” Mr Sisilo said.

Mr Sisilo is leading the Solomon Islands’ delegation to the 5th Round of the PACER-Plus negotiations that kicked started in Apia, Samoa, on Thursday.

The other members of his delegation are Francis Tsatsia, Director of Quarantine, David Kaumae, Deputy Commissioner of Labour, and Jenny Barile, Senior Trade Officer.