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Australian Government calls for comment on new skilled worker visa

The Australian Government has called for comment on a new skilled worker visa

The Australian Government has invited public comment on a new template labour agreement to help the tourism and hospitality sectors attract skilled workers from overseas.

Being driven by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, and the Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson, the proposed template agreement establishes a common set of requirements tailored specifically for tourism and hospitality businesses recruiting skilled overseas workers, and follows discussions with industry at the Tourism Employment Roundtable hosted by Minister Ferguson in August 2011.

According to the Government, the “development of a template labour agreement will help to ease labour and skills pressures by improving the tourism and hospitality industry’s ability to attract and retain labour in some of the occupations identified by the industry as being in critical shortage”.

Bowen said this would cover experienced waiters, chefs, bar attendants, hotel managers and other occupations, which can be hard to fill locally or may be ineligible under other migration programs.

“This template seeks a balance between upholding the standards of the visa system while giving employers easier access to workers whose skills are hard to find in Australia,” Bowen said.

“Approved employers could nominate workers for temporary skilled subclass 457 visas using the template, enabling workers to be granted visas where they meet the requirements.

“Of course, employers would need to show they are doing their best to employ and train domestic workers and paying market rates.”

Ferguson said the template labour agreement will help address critical skills shortages in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

“Research has found that there are already 36,000 vacancies in this industry and by 2015 another 56,000 workers will be required, particularly in regional areas,” Ferguson said.

“Tourism injects around $35 billion a year into the Australian economy and the Government is acting to ensure labour and skills issues impacting on the tourism industry’s competitiveness are addressed under the National Long?Term Tourism Strategy, Tourism 2020.

“This announcement comes on the back of the introduction of the seasonal worker program, the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot in Broome and the Guide to the 457 program for the tourism and hospitality industries.”

The announcement has been welcomed by the Tourism Accommodation Australia, with the association’s Managing Director Rodger Powell saying the initiative would play a critical role in overcoming the shortages of skills and labour impacting the accommodation sector.

“This initiative was discussed with Minister Ferguson at last year’s Tourism Employment Roundtable as something that the industry desperately needs,” Powell said.

“Hotels are struggling to fill specialist positions such as trained service staff, bar managers, chefs and hotel managers due to local shortages and the constraints of other working visa categories.

“Having a template Labour Agreement that can be utilised as a starting point will certainly help our members fill positions with specialist skills that are in short supply in Australia at the moment,” he said.

Ferguson said views are sought from stakeholders on the list of eligible businesses, occupations, salary, skills levels and English language requirements.

He said the discussion paper is open for comment until March 16, 2012 and can be found at www.tourism.gov.au/labour

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