THE Solomon Islands had been trying to join the Australian seasonal workers scheme some years back, but was denied.
New Zealand stepped in and accepted the deal which resulted in many Solomon Islanders going to New Zealand to work over the past years.
Former Prime Minister Danny Philip during last year’s Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Auckland spoke with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Few months after, Australia invited the Solomon Islands to participate in the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme.
Solomon Islands wasted no time to accept the invitation. Formalities were established and an agreement signed on December 13 last year by our Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Shanel and Australia’s Parliamentary secretary for Pacific Affairs Richard Marles who visited the country to seal the deal.
The pilot scheme makes up to 2,500 visas available to workers from participating countries to work in the horticulture industry, where producers cannot find enough local labour to meet their seasonal labour needs.
Not even a month after the pilot scheme was signed, the Australian government informally passed word to the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo who visited the St Vincent Hospital in Sydney, Australia for a health check-up, that the deal was no longer temporary.
That was truly welcoming news for Solomon Islands. Many Solomon Islanders who travelled to New Zealand under the same arrangement returned home happy with what they earn compared to what they normally earn locally time-wise.
One advantage of the arrangement with Australia is travelling cost. Australia is not too far compared to New Zealand thus there is less cost in terms of airfares and that gives an opportunity for one to save more money.
Many people who returned from New Zealand from work under the arrangement have relayed positive feedbacks and evidently kicked off tangible undertakings to sustain their livelihood.
Many build permanent homes while others venture into businesses after acquiring capital from that work.
Compared with the amount of time one works at home, a juicy amount of money one gets from working under the arrangement is far attractive.
The scheme attracted some working class people who abandon their jobs to look for quick bounty.
The Government must now play a critical role in establishing labour sending mechanisms; ensuring there are robust systems in place to assure worker quality, including through pre-departure vetting and preparation; and promoting Solomon Islands workers to Australian growers participating in the Scheme.
Our image overseas must be maintained at the highest standard to avoid shame and disappointments under the arrangement.
But like any other issues of such nature, there are always negative side of things, but as long as regulations agreed on are there to minimise negative aspects, we are ready to roll.
Bear in mind, those who will be travelling in the coming years to work under the arrangement, that it work two ways. While the horticulture industry will experience productivity gains; workers too are remitting money home, improving their standard of living. It’s a give and take.
Otherwise the quick positive reaction of Australia must be appreciated.
Thank you big bro.