Australia Scraps Agricultural Visa Scheme for Lao Workers

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The Australian government has discontinued a policy to allow foreign workers, including those from Laos, to work in Australia under agricultural programs.

Mr. Paul Kelly, Australian ambassador to Laos, said during his visit with the Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Ms. Khambay Khatthiya, that the agricultural program has been canceled by the new Australian government after the election two months ago.

There will no longer be a program to offer agricultural employment of Southeast Asian workers, including those workers from Lao PDR, in Australia.

The visa scheme was going to enable agricultural workers from ten Southeast Asian countries to work in Australia following a shortage of farm workers in the country.

Workers from Laos, as well as those from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, were going to be offered the chance to work on Australian farms under the scheme.

Australia’s new government has instead shifted its focus to Pacific nations like Fiji as potential sources of workers to help alleviate Australia’s current labor shortage.

The minister expressed regret over the cancellation of the agricultural visa.

Australia and Laos never formally signed a memorandum of understanding to bring Lao workers to work in agriculture in Australia. Rather, the scheme was only in initial discussions.

Ms. Khambay Khatthiya, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, still hopes to cooperate with Australia in other ways in the future to help Lao workers gain valuable experience in Australia.