Pro­posed changes to work­ing hol­i­day

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - TOURISM TALK - DONNA-MARIE MILNE

THE Aus­tralian Tourism Ex­port Coun­cil has pro­posed changes to work­ing hol­i­day visa guide­lines which could bring much-needed labour sup­ply to ar­eas such as the Dou­glas re­gion where the pres­sure to at­tract work­ers to tourism busi­nesses is threat­en­ing their vi­a­bil­ity.

ATEC is urg­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to look at ad­just­ments to the el­i­gi­bil­ity set­tings for the WHV that would mean in­creas­ing the qual­i­fy­ing age range from 18-30, to 18 - 35, and al­low­ing mul­ti­ple visa ap­pli­ca­tions.

This alone could pos­si­bly mark an 11 per cent re­turn in work­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers equat­ing to $275 mil­lion over 10 years, with in­clu­sion of all ATEC pro­pos­als lead­ing to an ad­di­tional $700 mil­lion over a 10-year pe­riod.

Un­der cur­rent rules, work­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers are able to ex­tend their visas by 12 months if they spend 88 days in a re­gional in­dus­try - such as agri­cul­ture, min­ing, con­struc­tion or fish­ing.

ATEC pro­pos­als seek to in­clude tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity as el­i­gi­bil­ity for a sec­ond WHV.

“The back­packer and youth mar­ket is valu­able in terms of the amount of money these vis­i­tors spend in-coun­try as well as from a labour and skills per­spec­tive.” ATEC man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Feli­cia Mar­i­ani said.

Re­search by ATEC and the Aus­tralian Im­mi­gra­tion depart­ment has found work­ing hol­i­day back­pack­ers spend more, travel fur­ther and stay longer than other trav­ellers, sig­ni­fy­ing a 60 per cent higher than spend than the av­er­age in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tor.

The most sig­nif­i­cant change pro­posed to cur­rent WHV reg­u­la­tions is dou­bling the pe­riod for which a work­ing hol­i­day­maker can stay with one em­ployer, from six months to 12 months.

Bucci res­tau­rant ap­pren­tice chef Hardy Ross said the pro­posed changes ben­e­fit ev­ery­one.

“My girl­friend Marie has had to keep chang­ing jobs ev­ery six months, this means it can be dif­fi­cult to find work if you want to stay in the area, es­pe­cially in the quiet sea­son,” he said.

“It can also mean that em­ploy­ers are then stuck with­out staff.

“The visa process is re­ally lengthy and re­ally ex­pen­sive.

“It would also be bet­ter if the visa ap­pli­ca­tion fees were re­duced to make it more af­ford­able for work­ing hol­i­day back­pack­ers.”

Court House Ho­tel su­per­vi­sor Dale Spar­rey agreed that if em­ploy­ment time al­lowance re­stric­tions were ex­tended it would en­cour­age young peo­ple to stay longer in the lo­cal area.

“The only way around the six months re­stric­tion is spon­sor­ship, but it is not al­ways an op­tion for em­ploy­ers, as it’s too big a com­mit­ment for most busi­nesses,”dale said.

“If staff can stay longer than six months in one job it would be ben­e­fi­cial to both em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees - it would def­i­nitely en­cour­age peo­ple to stay longer and fill im­por­tant jobs.”

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