ABOUT TOP$35.6 million worth of remittances to Tonga was recorded in 2013/2014 financial year under New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) and Australia Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot scheme.
This is compared to around TOP$23 million remitted back to the country from local seasonal workers recruited to work in New Zealand and Australia in the 2012/2013 financial year.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) Lopeti Senituli revealed this when briefing Members of the Standing Committee on Social Services of the Legislative Assembly on MIA’s key responsibilities of the nine divisions of the ministry that includes the management of the seasonal worker’s scheme.
Senituli said the approximately TOP$35.6 million remittances to Tonga for 2013/2014 exceeded the total export earning of TOP$23 million recorded in 2012. Hence, he said from the TOP$5.26 million budget allocated for MIA, TOP$43,000 is only allocated for the overseas employment division vote yet they are bringing more than TOP$35 million into our economy.
The subject briefing programme organized by the Office of the Legislative Assembly was aimed to inform new and incumbent MPs of the core functions and work carried out by MIA, other Government Ministries and Non-Government Organizations.
It was also with the intented to broaden their knowledge and understanding so when such arising matters are raised in the House, they are well versed with the issue and hence help them to deliver productive deliberations.
Speaking on the statistics for 2012-2014 on Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) & Seasonal Work plan, Mr. Senituli brought to their attention about the TOP$26.8 million worth of total income earned by Tongan fruit pickers in New Zealand in 2012/2013.
This is compared to TOP$26.5 million under the Australian’s Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot scheme in the same year.
The total income earned by Tongan seasonal workers in New Zealand for 2013/2014 increased from TOP$26.8 to TOP$32.8 million while the total income generated from Australia was around TOP$38.4 million.
In the 2012/2013 a total of 1,573 seasonal workers from Tonga were recruited to work in horticultural farms in New Zealand as opposed to 1,199 hired to work in Australia.
In 2006 New Zealand introduced the RSE work scheme to fill the labour shortages in the horticulture and viticulture industries in the country. Low skilled migrants from the Pacific including Tongans were recruited in the process.
Australia finally launched its Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot in 2008 designed to alleviate the labour shortages for the Australian horticulture industry by providing work opportunities for Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Senituli said in 2013/2014 the number of seasonal workers recruited to work in the Australian horticulture agriculture increased from around 1,200 to about 1,500.
The Tongans supplied 70 percent of the labour market of the Australian horticulture industry. Hence, Australia has announced that for 2015/2016 quarter the participation number will go up from 2,500 to 4,250.
Tonga is second to Vanuatu with only 35 percent in supplying the labour market in New Zealand. Hence, Senituli mentioned that Tonga will do its utmost to provide more work opportunities for both the New Zealand and Australian labour markets.
Marital problem was also noted as amongst the main difficulties faced by some seasonal workers due to the long period of separation from family. Senituli asserted MPs that efforts have been made with related stakeholders like the Tonga Family Health to provide counseling to alleviate the problem.
Chairperson of the Committee, Penisimani Fifita praised the good work MIA had done to generate millions into our economy.
He adds this not only helps the seasonal worker’s individual families’ lives but the increase in the level of remittances to Tonga also further boosted our foreign reserves and local economy.
Other subject briefings
Meanwhile other presentations were made to the Committee included the Ministry of Health, Tonga Family Health, Ma’a Fafine mo e Famili and the Civil Society Ogranisation.
Principal Health Planning Officer of the Ministry of Health, Sione Hufanga briefed MPs on Tonga Health System Strengthening, Lessons learned from 10 years Health System Strengthening in Tonga and what more can be for the Health System.
Executive Director of Tonga Family Health Association, ‘Amelia Hoponoa assisted by Programme Manager, Kathy Mafi delivered a presentation on the core functions of TFHA and the kind of activities they implemented.
The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Tonga’s reservations towards CEDAW were also brought to the Committee Member’s attention during the subject briefing.
Committee’s Terms of References/Members
According to Rule 178 of the Rules of Procedures of the Legislative Assembly, the Social Services Committee is responsible for considering and reporting on all matters relating to social services including employment, health, education, welfare, gender, heritage and other social issues.
Committee Members are Penisimani Fifita (Chairman), Lord Tu’ivakano (Speaker of Parliament), Lord Tu’i’afitu (Deputy Speaker of Parliament), Lord Tu’iha’ateiho, Hon. Fe’ao Vakata (Minister of Internal Affairs), Hon. Semisi Fakahau (Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries), Hon. Dr. Saia Piukala (Minister of Health), Lord Vaea and Veivosa Taka (Ha’apai 13 People’s Representative).