Indonesian guest workers for ag

20 Nov, 2012 12:30 PM

UNSKILLED Indonesian workers who speak little English would be used to fill labour shortages in Australia under a trade, investment and economic co-operation agreement negotiated between business groups from the two countries.

The plan, which Trade Minister Craig Emerson will discuss at the East Asian Summit in Phnom Penh this week, says short-term migrant workers with limited English skills should be allowed to enter Australia if they are accompanied by a skilled Indonesian supervisor. The approach is modelled on a scheme used in New Zealand to recruit farm workers from the Pacific Islands.

The agreement, reports The Australian Financial Review, says that labour shortages in parts of Australia are undermining economic growth and Indonesia's youthful population could provide a "dynamic workforce".

The proposal for a guest worker program is likely to be highly controversial, especially among unions, and illustrates the practical difficulty of establishing the closer economic integration with Asia advocated by the government's Australia in the Asian Century white paper.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Indonesia Australia Business Council and the Australia Indonesia Business Council have agreed to the 100-page paper.

Two-way trade between Australia and Indonesia was worth about $14.8 billion in 2011. Forecasts say that Indonesia's economy will overtake Australia's economy at market exchange rates within a decade. Both countries concede economic ties have been underdone.

Dr Emerson and his Indonesian counterpart, Gita Wirjawan, are expected to discuss the business plan on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit. Dr Emerson declined to comment.

It is the first time since Australia began negotiating bilateral free-trade agreements that the business communities in the relevant countries have agreed on a detailed position on what they believe can be achieved before formal negotiations began.

Indonesian government officials have previously stressed that they want Indonesian workers to have access to Australia to help find jobs for their huge population and to improve the skills of Indonesians who would then return after working in Australia. Australian professionals would have easier access to Indonesian jobs.

Australian officials and business people understand they will have to make concessions such as in labour movement to overcome public concerns.

Other recommendations include reductions in trade restrictions, abolition of all foreign investment restrictions and harmonised health and safety standards.

The business groups say their agreement on many sensitive issues should help the governments negotiate faster than usual. They are hopeful of a deal by 2014.

Barriers to two-way people movement would be removed in agriculture, food processing, agriculture training, standard setting, mining, engineering, environmental management and skills development in mining, energy, engineering and the environment.

While Australia has secured easier access to Indonesia under its free-trade agreement with the Association of South-East Asian countries, there are still many complicated and overlapping regulations and procedures which hurt business in industries with great potential, including agriculture, food, mining and professional services.

The report tries to rebuild ties with Indonesia after last year's Australian ban on cattle exports by focusing on common standards, two-way investment in the meat supply chain and the use of Australian expertise to help develop Indonesia's cattle industry.

Australian Financial ReviewSource:
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Ian Mott
20/11/2012 1:42:36 PM

Well, about time. But don't let the clowns stuff it up. The key requirement is that the wages paid need to be significantly below the minimum award while maintaining the working conditions and the medicare levy. Our award system is based on local housing and consumption expectations that most people on the planet regard as absolute indulgences. Tell an Indonesian that he is living in "housing stress" whenever a person over 18 years has to share a bedroom and his whole family will laugh in your face. They would much rather bunk-up and take the savings back home.
Ian Mott
20/11/2012 2:05:51 PM

The average GDP per capita for Indonesia is quite low in dollar terms but they get much more purchasing power for their dollar. Their GDP adjusted for purchasing power is US$4,600 a year, or AU$4,460. And as with most third world economies, more than 70% of the population would get much less than this. So the prospect of $100 a week or $5,200 a year would be very attractive to every farm worker in Indonesia, especially when it includes 4 weeks paid leave, 10 stat hols (of their choice), 5 sick days and a return air fare. Most may opt for a slow boat instead and keep the change.
Ian Mott
20/11/2012 2:09:41 PM

The other major advantage of a low wage guest worker scheme is that it can become the default visa outcome for illegals. No ifs or buts, if they don't arrive by the approved means they automatically go into the low wage pool. Watch a billion dollar problem disappear over night.
Ian Mott
20/11/2012 2:28:20 PM

We also need to make sure that family farms are the first to benefit from this scheme. If they are only allowed in larger groups under a skilled supervisor then they will only benefit the larger corporate operations. What almost every family farm needs most is affordable and reliable help on all the jobs that could and should be done but they simply haven't the time to do in a week with only seven days in it. Problems with one or two workers on family farms can be sorted out with a phone-in interpreter/case worker.
Bushie Bill
20/11/2012 3:33:30 PM

Wow! This has really set the Mutt drooling, hasn't it? Think how excited he must be; the prospect of returning Australia to the age of the Kanakas. Here we go, a return to slave labour, whilst the beneficiaries pay slave labour rates, they earn first world developed economy high cost returns. Just like the great age in the American South a century and a half ago; you know, cotton picking, Negro spirituals, whippings, public lynchings? Great work if you can get it. However Mutt, no mention of slave rates in this article, was there?
Bushie Bill
20/11/2012 3:36:02 PM

Don't get too excited, Mutt; already you attempt to impose the conditions under which you are prepared to be involved. Beggars can’t be choosers, Mutt. If you don't get what you want, you can always migrate to these source countries of cheap labour, can't you, or perhaps to some right-wing dictatorship in Africa or South America? How did you like the bit about "abolition of all foreign investment restrictions", Mutt?
Jen from the bush
20/11/2012 4:10:20 PM

Is this going to be the cheap labour for Darwin meatworks? Wonder how long this welfare state can exist with money going overseas? Someone should tell the greenies etc they might have to get a job soon. Hang on the jobs already taken by someone who wants to work and wants the job.
20/11/2012 4:46:44 PM

Ha - look at you under skilled overpaid high-vis boofheads - soon the world will not require minerals but food production and you will be competing with labour at $150 per week - hope you didn't blow it on $60k utes and Bali holidays!
Ian Mott
20/11/2012 5:17:21 PM

What's the matter, BS Bill, so now you have a problem with annual leave and overtime for guest workers? Or do you just have a problem with family farmers getting access to the global labour market to service the global food market they operate in? And as for foreign investment restrictions, my neanderthal mate, if Aussie farmers had access to the global labour market they would never need to sell and there would be plenty of willing Aussie buyers as well. But you can always burn your ALP membership. Me, I've got a hillside full of Lantana that has waited 50 years to be cleared.
21/11/2012 5:42:24 AM

Not much fun when your mob have to contend with a bit of competition is it, Bushie?
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Pleased that common sense has prevailed. Being close to the policy makers cannot be underestimated
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JohnCarpenter, The lamb and mutton job is going okay- we must be doing some things right.
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Spot on X. Let the Chinese buy as long as we can buy freely in China