OK, we’ve reported on, given historical context to, and mocked Lockwood Smith’s racist comments about seasonal migrant workers. Now, to the substance of what Smith as saying, ie that fewer permits issued under the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE) should be allocated to people from the Pacific Islands (because, he says, other people are smaller and more hygienic). That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the RSE is for.
As it happens, I was working in the Diplomatic Corp when the RSE was being developed and am more familiar with multilateral temporary migration agreement negotiations than I care to be. It was pushed by the Pacific Island countries who wanted more remittances and to up-skill their work-force, and by the agriculture industries here and in Aussie, who want more labour but are too cheap to pay decent wages.
Basically, what happens under the RSE is Australia and NZ take a bunch of seasonal workers, primarily from the Pacific, for agricultural work (with protections that are meant to make sure domestic labour isn’t displaced by the migrant workers). Eleven Pacific Island nations from the Pacific Islands Forum organise pools of workers to come over under the RSE. Workers from other countries only get permits when there are not suitable workers available from the Islands.
It is essentially an aid programme for the Pacific (‘our’ payoff being cheap labour) and that’s why most of the workers are from the Islands. Change that, as Smith is proposing, and you take away the point of the scheme. It then becomes just a way for agriculture to undercut local workers.