Leader of Opposition Matthew Wale has called on the government to take a more proactive approach to ensure more Solomon Islanders can exploit the opportunities offered by the Australian labour mobility schemes.
Responding to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Australia is in desperate need for at least 26,000 farm workers right now, Mr Wale said the Solomon Islands government’s current approach is merely responsive and passive.
He says our government should be proactively seeking out where these 26,000 farm jobs are, who the farmers are, and working to recruit 26,000 young Solomon Islanders to match to this need.
The Opposition Leader says the government’s target of reaching 2,000 of our workers in Australia by the end of December 2021 is just not good enough in view of the number of farm jobs needed in Australia now.
Wale points out that for a truly proactive approach, the government should not administer the labour mobility schemes but totally contract the responsibility out to the private sector on an incentivised basis that rewards the contractor on the number of Solomon Islanders matched to employers in Australia.
He says to maximise job opportunities for Solomon Islanders in Australia under the schemes, it is important that Solomon Islands has capacity in Australia actively searching for such opportunities, adding that this is not being done at the moment, and he doubts a government department or unit could do such work.
“But this is what our young people desperately need to happen. Government is always going to be constrained by lack of resources, bureaucracy and red tape,” says the Opposition Leader.
Wale said it is tragic that the government seems unmoved in seeking to substantially increase the number of Solomon Islanders working in Australia, noting that our young people desperately need jobs, Australian farmers desperately need 26,000 workers right now, but our government only hopes to reach 2,000 of our workers in Australia by the end of 2021.
The Opposition Leader went on to add that “This is simply a terrible outcome for our people and economy. It is inexcusable in light of the need in both countries. There are no jobs for young Solomon Islanders in our own economy. In fact life has become very hard. There are many households that are struggling to even have one meal each day. There are many kids who are out of school because parents cannot afford school fees.
“Our government’s economic policies will not address these hardships. But one thing it can do is be more proactive is securing the farm jobs in Australia for young Solomon Islanders.
“It would go a long way toward relieving the hardships that families face, and improving cash flow through the economy from the remittances. It’s a no-brainer of a policy, but government needs to outsource this function if we hope to exploit these opportunities for our people,” the Opposition Leader adds.