New Australia visa could be a threat for Pacific workers

The Australian National University's Stephen Howes said the new Australian Agricultural Visa scheme could undermine two existing schemes that have become cornerstones of the economies of a number of Pacific countries.

Professor Howes said if the Australian Agricultural Visa was not implemented with same types of safeguards as the Seasonal Worker Programme and the Pacific Labour Scheme, then many farmers across Australia were likely to switch to the new visa.

"Although its termed an agricultural visa it is actually going to allow employers to bring in workers, not only for agriculture but also for other region industries, including meat processing, and meat processing jobs are actually 71% of Pacific Labour Scheme jobs.

"So those employers shift away from the PLS for the new visa than definitely the PLS is at a risk of collapse," he said.

Professor Howes, a Professor of Economics at the ANU's Crawford School of Public Policy, said the new visa had been pushed by the Nationals ahead of the next election so candidates could go to their rural electorates saying they're doing something about worker shortages.