An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What's Good For The Goose Is ...

I mentioned last December about how some Aussie government big wigs were in Lae at the time discussing ideas about seasonal work visas (or working holiday visas as I then thought) for Papuan New Guineans.

Well John Howard, who is finally in PNG at the moment for the Pacific Islands Forum (he is staying at the Madang Resort where I stayed earlier this year - I wonder if he gets the 50% discount), yesterday came out and trampled all over the idea.

The problem as I see it though is that the Pacific island states, like PNG, are trying to sell the idea from completely the wrong angle. They are making the argument that Papua New Guineans (or Fijians, Tongans or whoever) could be used for seasonal work only. Australia gives them a short term visa, 6 months perhaps, and they fly down there and pick oranges, apples or whatever. The apparent benefit of this is that PNGns earn some cash and gain experience (although I can't see how picking fruit for 6 months will cover the cost of living and the flights).

What the Pacific states should be arguing is that Australia allows their countries to give their nationals who are under 30 the option to get a visa for one year. They can only get this visa once and they will be allowed to work for up to 3 months with any given employer. With this it will give Pacific islanders the chance to gain experience in a big country, earn money from the experience and take all that experience back home with them.

The claim made by little Johnny yesterday that "Either you invite someone into your country to stay as a permanent resident or citizen or you don't" is complete rubbish, because Australia already has exactly the same type of visas I have spelled out, in place for about 20 different rich countries. They are called Working Holiday Maker visas.

His other worry, which he has not alluded to, is overstayers. Helen Clark was a little less light footed around the issue when she said "We do not want to have a growing number of illegals who come and skip at the end of permits" when asked about the same sort of seasonal worker scenario for New Zealand. If Australia is really worried about that, which of course they are, they can either cap the number of visas allocated, or make it a requirement to have a return ticket.

Sure there will be a few illegals that do turn up, but as statistics have shown, it won't be anywhere as big as the biggest group of illegal nationals in Australia, more than the Iraqis and Afghanis etc, the Brits.

But at least the Brits can show the Australians a thing or too about generosity, because they at least have now extended their working holiday visa scheme to Papua new Guineans, and I don't even think PNG was asking for it. Oh and it is not for one year but two.