An early celebration: 20 Timor Leste citizens head to work in Australia

The press release is title, “Timor-Leste Seasonal Workers depart for the Northern Territory”.

20 citizens from Timor Leste are departing to work in the Northern Territory under the Seasonal Work Program. Since 2012, “more than 80” Timorese have made the same journey.

Good luck to these people and it is heartening to see at least some people migrating under the Seasonal Work Program.

But this media release perfectly sums up what is wrong with the program. 80 people in two years from one of the poorest countries in the region is a terrible outcome. We should be celebrating hundreds, not handfuls, of people.

Hopefully the Chief Minister of the NT, the Australian Ambassador and the head of the Timor-Leste Employer department, each who attended the ceremony, have also advocated to the federal government about the flaws of the program and are thinking about ways they can each improve it.

Instead of success, this type of media release highlights how far is still to go regarding Pacific seasonal migration in Australia and a reminder about how public policy that does not have a political champion will often fail to meet expectations. The contrast with New Zealand’s seasonal worker program continues to be stark.

I would have penned a media release beginning with,

“While we managed to provide 20 citizens the opportunity to earn 8-10 times the local wage, we have not done enough for those who remain unable to migrate.”

Perhaps the next time we can be a little more honest.

For those interested, I broadly agree with most of the stuff on Devpolicy regarding the seasonal work program.

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