A scheme to expand the number of Pacific Islanders working in Australian industries such as agriculture and aged care has reached its target six months early.
The October budget set out a plan for the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme to reach 35,000 workers by June 2023.
But the latest data shows the milestone was reached in December, an increase of 44 per cent in just seven months.
Workers from nine Pacific island countries and East Timor are filling workforce shortages in 28 industries including agriculture, food processing, aged care, accommodation and hospitality.
They are employed under the same industry awards and legislation as Australian workers, and their employers must comply with workplace regulations and health and safety laws.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who met with PALM workers in Fiji last year, said it was not only beneficial for the workers but had diplomatic benefits.
“This scheme is a practical measure that shows our respect for the Pacific and will build a stronger Pacific family,” he said.
Workplace relations minister Tony Burke said the Government was closely monitoring the wellbeing of workers.
“Site visits, a 24-hour PALM support line, and regular employer reporting are features of the compliance framework, with additional compliance activities funded in the Fair Work Ombudsman,” he said.
Pacific Minister Pat Conroy said the money being paid to PALM workers was being remitted back to their home countries and building new homes, putting children through school and kickstarting small businesses.