CHAFFEY ELECTORATE Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:47): I rise to talk about a fantastic worker program. The South Australian government have been outstanding in enabling a workforce to come into South Australia, but in particular into the Riverland, to be a part of the Seasonal Worker Program.
It is a 90-day program, and it is bringing a workforce into the region, which it appears Australians and others are not prepared to do.
Sadly, we see that so many of our potential workforce have become so city centric that they are not prepared to go to the regions and do a really hard day's work that is so gratifying. It is about going out there helping the farmers, helping the country grow its economy and putting our fruit and wares onto international shelves.
The initial program was going to be 1,200 workers coming into the region over some six fortnights. We all know that quarantine relies on a 14-day quarantine period. It has now been wound back to over 800 workers over an eight-week period. This is the first regional quarantine station in the state, and we have seen the arrival of the first 216 Tongans. They have completed their isolation and it went without incident, which is a great outcome for all those involved.
They did complete their 14 days of isolation and now have moved out and made way for the second cohort from Vanuatu, and that second 14-day quarantine will be completed at the beginning of next week. It is a great outcome. What we are seeing now is that particularly Paringa and Renmark are populated with quite a few Pacific Islanders. Some of them are coming out of the quarantine station and some of them are coming from Tasmania and the western part of the eastern seaboard.
What I must say is that we have to acknowledge the preferred employees who have worked tirelessly. They dotted the I's and crossed the t's. The up-front cost borne by those preferred employees has been substantial—$2½ thousand per worker, and that has added a cost burden to those employers and those horticulture businesses making sure they can get their crops harvested. It is making sure that horticultural crops are picked and packed, the new crops are planted and trained, vineyards and orchards are pruned in readiness for the upcoming crops, the upcoming season.
We know the impacts that we have had due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The internationals are not gracing our shores and it is making it very tough to bring that workforce into the regions, which are so reliant on the Pacific Islanders coming in and doing a solid day's work. I thank them for going through the 14-day quarantine period. We are a little bit concerned about them coming here, but they are more concerned about catching it here in Australia. So I thank them for their dedication to helping our private sector.
We see the collaboration with the Pacific Islanders coming from Tasmania and the Eastern States complementing the workforce going through our quarantine facilities. I want to thank SA Health, PIRSA, SAPOL, the contractors and the emergency services for their concerted efforts to make this program come to fruition.
I cannot forget the emergency response infrastructure. This portable, pop-up camp is truly amazing. It has been designed by Defence and built into a flat pack format. It is a multibed camp hut facility. In fact, eight of them fold out of one container and, once they fold the accommodation out of one container, that container turns into a shower block. It is truly amazing. It is self-sufficient and it is rolled in, rolled out. That camp was up for two days. The camp was brought in when the region was planning. What we did not realise was that the beginning of the quarantine period was during school holidays and so all the accommodation was booked out, and I thank the service sector, Health, SAPOL and all those professionals that were keeping that program running sweet.
The owner of the Paringa Resort, John Pearce, has also worked to facilitate the conversion from resort accommodation into full quarantine. Humanihut, the contractors from Defence, have taken over the facility, with extra security and monitoring. Also, Health are swabbing on arrival, on day 5 and on day 12. There is daily saliva testing. The spin-off to the local economy has been outstanding and I want to pay tribute to all the proponents of this very successful program, helping our farmers pick and pack the produce to put on the shelves around the world.