One of the key challenges PMA A-NZ members face is having access to the right people to grow, pick and pack the fresh produce that supplies the Australian and New Zealand supply chain. The people that fill these roles come to our industry from a variety of sources, one of the important ones in Australia being the Seasonal Worker Program.
The SWP provides Australian businesses with a workforce to produce and harvest valuable crops while supporting people in the Pacific to grow their income and skills. In 2016-17, approximately 6,166 participants from countries in the Pacific region arrived to work in Australia under the programme. The World Bank estimates Australian employers have delivered approximately A$144 million in net income gains to the Pacific region through the SWP. In Tonga, the wages contribution through the SWP is higher than Australia’s bilateral aid budget to that country.
There is currently a review underway of the deed that covers the SWP, providing an opportunity for the fresh produce industry to work with the Department of Jobs and Small Business to improve the SWP to ensure Australian horticultural businesses can manage risk while increasing the scope and popularity of the programme. The first step is to develop clarity around responsibilities under the Deed, which governs how businesses engage with the SWP.
PMA A-NZ brought together a group of businesses that are directly involved in the SWP and produced the following submission to give direction to government on how to improve the deed for all stakeholders, workers included.