Pacific labour mobility – the $144 million question

Issue date: Thursday, 27 February 2020

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The Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee will hear tomorrow from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade at a public hearing for its inquiry into activating trade and investment between Australia and Pacific island countries.

Chair of the Committee’s Trade Sub-Committee, Dr John McVeigh MP, said the hearing will focus in part on the economic flow-on effects for Australia’s cadre of seasonal workers.

‘More than 12,000 seasonal workers came from the Pacific island countries in 2018-19 to work on Australia’s farms, in our orchards and in other sectors,’ Dr McVeigh said.

‘The World Bank tells us these workers sent an average of $9,000 each home in 2018, resulting in a net income gain of $144 million to the Pacific region.’

‘This income was especially concentrated in high participant countries such as Fiji, Kiribati and Vanuatu.’

The sub-committee wants to better understand how the Australia Government and its agencies are seeking to activate greater trade and investment opportunities with the Pacific region.

‘The sub-committee will explore some issues related to the popular Seasonal Worker Programme and the more recent Pacific Labour Scheme have been raised in submissions to the inquiry and also in an earlier hearing, but also investigate what is being done to encourage more investment and trade in goods and services between Australia and the Pacific island countries,’ Dr McVeigh said.

The sub-committee will also investigate the latest developments and implementation of a new development-centred trade agreement, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus), with 13 other members of Pacific Islands Forum.

‘We’re keen to explore how PACER Plus will help Pacific island countries benefit from the regional trading system, develop economies and encourage Australian and islander businesses to grow two way trade in goods and services,’ Dr McVeigh said.

Public hearing details:

Date: Thursday 27 February 2020
Time: 9:45am to 11:15am
Location: Committee Room IR4, Parliament House, Canberra.

The hearing will be audio streamed live at

Submissions from any person, businesses or organisations with an interest in the issues raised by these terms of reference are welcome. Submissions addressing all or some of the terms of reference should be lodged by 23 March 2020.

Further details about the about the inquiry, including terms of reference, details on how to contribute a submission and, when available, details of public hearings and roundtable discussions, can be obtained from the Committee’s website.

Media enquiries:

The Hon Dr John McVeigh MP, Sub-Committee Chair
Clare Siddins/Nikki Phillips
(07) 4632 4144

For background:

Committee Secretariat
(02) 6277 2313

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