A delegation led by Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs Joseph Ma’ahanua submitted Solomon Islands bid host in Brisbane last week.
The delegation included Solomon High Commissioner to New Zealand Joy Kere, Helen Beck, George Tuti and Louise Ellerton from the Australian High Commission in Honiara.
The PLMAM meeting brought together responsible authorities from Australia and New Zealand, including their Departments of Immigration, Employment and Foreign Affairs and Trade.
It also provided a session for employers and contractors to talk about issues they expect from labour sending countries.
Two key issues of concern to the Solomon Islands delegation are communications and illegal work using holiday visas, the latter being more of a concern for Australia.
“Some of our local recruitment agents have limited access to Internet therefore from time to time, visited the Labour Mobility Unit (LMU) in the Solomon Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade to access Internet mainly for this purpose,” Ma’ahanua said.
On the illegal work using holiday visas, an academia expressed his concern that whilst Solomon Islands is trying its best to use the formal and recognised schemes/programmes, there are a good number of Solomon Islanders who are also hindering the good work which the SIG is trying to do in terms of using the formally recognised employment pathways such as the SWP.
The other interesting opportunity for Pacific Island countries is the Australian Prime Minister’s announcement of the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) during the Forum Leaders meeting in Samoa earlier this year.
This is a new labour scheme focusing more on semi-skilled workers unlike the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP), which is mainly focusing on unskilled labor.
A design team is currently consulting with Pacific countries, academia, think tanks, civil society and private sectors to finalise the design and ready to be implemented by June 2018.
At the Brisbane meeting, Solomon Islands commented on the need for equitable re-distribution of employment opportunities under the labour mobility schemes
The delegation also lobbied that Solomon Islands should be part of the new Australian labour scheme.
Solomon Islands is committed to promote the labour mobility schemes and hosting this event is one way the country can bring responsible authorities from both Australia and New Zealand including employers/farmers/contractors and other stakeholders involved in facilitating the schemes