IT WAS A PLEASURE AND HONOUR TO WELCOME THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE SOLOMON ISLANDS RICK HOUENIPWELA, HIS WIFE RACHEL AND A NUMBER OF HIS CABINET MEMBERS TO FLYNN RECENTLY.
Prime Minister Houenipwela and I were joined by Stephen Bennett MP, Member for Burnett as we toured Abbotsleigh Citrus at Wallaville and shared lunch and a laugh with some of the 117 Solomon Islanders making a real difference as part of the Seasonal Workers Program (SWP). Pacific Islanders are reaping the rewards of farm work that many Australians and backpackers don’t want to do, and it is changing lives here and back in their home island nations.
Coordinated by the federal government which has injected more than $40 million into the program since a trial began in 2009, the SWP is a form of overseas aid aimed at boosting the economies of our Pacific neighbours while helping farmers find workers. The World Bank reported last year that 17,320 Pacific Islanders have been employed since 2012, returning $144 million to the region.
Prime Minister Houenipwela and I had a robust and interesting conversation covering a range of topics including finance, fruit and football.
Thank you to Michael at Abbotsleigh Farms for hosting the delegation and for the opportunities being provided to our Pacific neighbours.