The government will expand a scheme allowing Pacific Islanders to work in Australia to include jobs in aged care to help fill tens of thousands of job vacancies in the crises-riddled sector.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese emphatically back broadening the Pacific Australia Labor Mobility Scheme after former NSW premier and head of aged-care provider Hammondcare, Mike Baird, urged the government to let Pacific Island workers fill jobs in areas where there were critical shortages.
Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, announced in Question Time on Tuesday the government would be expanding the scheme to include aged care.
“Back during the recent very successful Pacific Islanders Forum in Fiji, I visited the Australia Pacific Coalition facility in Suva with the Prime Minister,” he said.
“We met 40 enthusiastic women who were trained to work on aged care centers in regional Queensland from Mackay to Toowoomba.”
He also said the government was expanding the scheme to reduce travel costs for employers, who foot upfront costs for workers, allowing Pacific workers to bring in family
members, and improving protections against worker exploitation.
The Australian Workers’ Union is calling on the government to impose protections after MADEC, a prominent labour-hire firm under the PALM scheme, had license restrictions imposed on it after paying back $70,000 in wages deducted from workers for accommodation.
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said many deductions were “plainly rorts.”
“Most PALM workers work in excess of 30 hours a week and can earn over $800. But
their take-home is less than $100 a week after dubious deductions for accommodation and Transport,” he said.
Allegations over wage deductions were aired in a Senate inquiry led by Labor Senator Tony Sheldon.
“This saga sums up why we must be wary of calls for significantly increased worker migration,” he said.
“Unless unions are empowered to have greater involvement in migrant worker schemes, these stories of exploitation will continue.”