PALM Scheme program is not a “Blackbirding” program

January 30, 2024 12:52 pm

Minister for Employment, Agni Deo Singh has defended the PALM Scheme program, dismissing claims of a “blackbirding system”.

The controversy arose when some Pacific recruiters labelled that the PALM Scheme, which involves recruiting workers for the agricultural sector, mirrored historical practices of exploitation and forced labour known as blackbirding.

Singh says they have also taken decisive action to guarantee that workers are not exploited and that all employers comply with the minimum standards.

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He says the Ministry is fully committed to ethical labour practices and ensures workers are treated fairly and with dignity.

“And will know, will leave no stone unturned to ensure that our workers are well protected. That is something that our ministry is mandated with. And that is why we visit them regularly, and we have got the Country Liaison Officers now and will continue to do that.

The Minister acknowledges concerns raised by Pacific recruiters and urges constructive dialogue to address any misconceptions.

Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Community Connections Coordinator Falakiko Kiutau says that while there may be truth in the positive stories, instances of injustice cannot be ignored.

Falakiko acknowledges the program’s potential but cautioned against letting isolated cases tarnish its reputation.

He calls for a cleanup of “bad apples” within the system, which he highlights as a crucial step to ensure a fair and successful overseas employment program.