Subject: Govt urged to include E Timor in Pacific visa scheme

ABC News

Tuesday June 24, 09:01 AM

Govt urged to include E Timor in Pacific visa scheme

By Online parliamentary correspondent Emma Rodgers

Former Victorian premier Steve Bracks has urged the Federal Government to include East Timor in its proposed guest worker visa scheme.

Mr Bracks, who is now and adviser to East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, has told ABC Radio National it is essential for the future growth of East Timor that young workers can have more employment opportunities as he says the rate of unemployment among young people is at 60 per cent.

"[East Timor] is in a rebuilding phase and part of that rebuilding is making sure that young people have opportunities for work but not only work - accredited training, leading to lifelong skills which can assist their country on their return," he said.

Federal Cabinet is considering a guest worker scheme which would allow workers from certain Pacific Islands to do seasonal work in Australia.

About 5,000 visas may be granted, but East Timor has not been included among the list of countries eligible under the plan.

Mr Bracks has urged Cabinet to include East Timor in its upcoming decision and says Mr Gusmao has also made approaches to the Federal Government.

"It wouldn't be inconsistent with the countries in our region which we support but if it's not in [this Cabinet decision] I hope that its next cab off the rank for a scheme which has long lasting benefit to Timor Leste and our economy," he said.

Mr Bracks also believes that the 1999 uprising for independence was driven by young people who did not have employment opportunities and were pushing for change.

"Getting people to work, getting people an education, getting skills is the best defence against further uprising in Timor Leste," he said.

"I think in a country which has one of the highest birthrates in the world - something approaching an average of eight children per family - I think it's ripe and ready for support from Australia in such a scheme."

Under current proposals the visas would allow someone to work for a seven-month period in farming but Mr Bracks would like to see a 12-month visa for East Timorese people and an opportunity for specific training in other areas such as mining, hospitality and retail.

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