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This presentation is part of the IMI Seminar Series, Trinity term 2015.

About this seminar

Australia has a strong reliance on temporary skilled workers, admitting near to 60,000 in financial year 2013-14. However, few of these workers are from Australia’s closest neighbours in the Pacific and Timor-Leste. Two policy responses from the Australian government to address this lack of access have been the Australian Pacific Technical College (APTC) and Seasonal Worker Program (SWP). Both have had little or no impact on giving more access to temporary work in Australia.

The focus of this seminar is on the Seasonal Worker Program set up in 2009, initially as a pilot, to provide short-term access for ‘unskilled’ workers in horticulture. The SWP was modelled on New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme. However, the two programs have produced very different results. In financial year 2013-2014, some 7,855 seasonal workers, mostly from the Pacific, went to work in New Zealand under the RSE. In the same period for Australia, only 2,014 workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste gained entry for work under SWP.  What factors are making it very difficult for Australia’s SWP to expand, as New Zealand’s program has done?

The seminar will outline the key differences between the two programs and show why New Zealand’s program has been more successful. These key differences include: the place of horticulture in the wider economy, reasons for starting the programs, the role of employers in initiating the programs and in how they operate, how lead country recruitment was managed, government and employer attitude to illegal workers, and flexibility in the two programs’ requirements.

About this speaker

Richard Curtain (PhD ANU 1980) is a public policy consultant and a Research Associate with Development Policy Centre, The Australian National University, Canberra. As part of a team of four, he evaluated the APTC in the second half of 2014.  In November, 2014, he was asked by the Australian High Commission in Solomon Islands to identify the reasons for the difference in Solomon Island take-up of SWP places (only 9) compared with the 500 or so workers who took up places in New Zealand’s RSE and propose ways to increase Solomon Island participation in the SWP.