Federal Independent MP Helen Haines said recent meetings she had in Fiji with member countries of the Pacific Island Forum have been productive, but it was crucial to expedite visa approvals to help current labour shortages in the agricultural sector.
Dr Haines was in the country as part of a parliamentary delegation and focused her discussions on agricultural labour shortages and Australia's national security interests in the Pacific.
She had with Pacific leaders who told her that the Pacific Australia Labor Mobility scheme (PALM) was a significant economic contributor.
"There are 50,000 Fijians currently registered to participate in this scheme and they're very enthusiastic about it," Dr Haines said.
"They're ready and willing to come to Australia and of the salaries that they earn when they are in Australia, a large proportion of that is sent back to their families in Fiji.
"It makes a significant difference to the health and welfare and well-being of the small villages and communities that they come from."
Dr Haines had previously criticised the Labor policy announced during the recent federal election campaign to create a dedicated agriculture visa stream under the established PALM scheme.
It effectively replaced the Coalition's dedicated visa for forestry, fishery, and farm workers targeting workers from south-east Asia, which Dr Haines said was "unfortunate".
"I think we need labor schemes that enable people from any part of the world to come and work in our agricultural sector if if they're willing and qualified to do so," she said.
"It is a pity Labor [abolished the agricultural visa] but the key thing now is that if 50,000 people are willing to come, we need to get their passage organised and get them over here as quickly as we can, particularly coming into the harvest season."
Despite her support for the former federal government's agricultural visa, only one country, Vietnam, had signed up for it since it was announced. No actual workers arrived under that visa either.
While Dr Haines was more supportive of that scheme, she said the former Coalition government were too slow in acting upon it.
She will meet with Agriculture Minister Murray Watt to "put the pressure on to get these visas operationalised and get these people here".
"We know that there have been significant delays in processing visa applications across the board.
"Our borders are open now and we need to up the ante on getting these visas processed."
She said many a wide variety of agricultural enterprises in her electorate of Indi were hugely impacted by labour shortages in recent years, including those producing grapes, cherries and dairy products.
Dr Haines' trip was part of a parliamentary delegation to Fiji and was funded by Save The Children Australia.
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