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Accommodation businesses across Western Australia will be able to employ seasonal labour from eight Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste with the extension of the Seasonal Workers Program accommodation trial.

Australia’s Minister for Employment Brendan O’Connor, and Minister for Tourism Gary Gray, jointly announced the Australian Government is expanding the Seasonal Worker program accommodation trial to incorporate the whole of Western Australia.

O’Connor said the extension of the trial, which is already underway in Broome, the Northern Territory, tropical Queensland, the Whitsundays Coast and Kangaroo Island, will allow accommodation businesses in Western Australia’s tourism industry to hire seasonal workers from abroad at times of local labour shortages.

“The expansion to include all of Western Australia will help accommodation businesses unable to find enough local labour to hire people from selected Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste,” O’Connor said.

“Accommodation providers will benefit from being able to have the seasonal workers they need when they need them, and workers from some of our closest neighbours will benefit from the ability to earn good money to help their family and community back home.”

Gray said the expansion of the program to Western Australia is a win for Western Australia’s important tourism industry.

“Seasonal workers provide Australian employers in the sector with a reliable workforce during peak seasons,” Gray said.

“It’s also a win for anyone wanting to visit the West and enjoy the fantastic tourism experiences we have, because this program will ensure Western Australia’s accommodation businesses can offer their very best service at peak season.”

Nearly 1500 seasonal workers were recruited by participating employers 2012-13.

The Seasonal Worker Program commenced on 1 July, 2012 following the conclusion of the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme on 30 June 2012. The Program also includes a trial in the Australian accommodation, aquaculture, cotton and cane sectors in selected regions.

The Program aims to contribute to the economic development of participating countries, and allows workers from eight Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste to undertake between 14 weeks and six months’ work with Australian employers who can demonstrate an unmet demand for low-skilled labour.

The number of places available under the program continues to grow each year. This financial year, 2000 places are available in the horticulture industry, and a combined total of 500 places are available to the trial sectors of accommodation, aquaculture, cotton and cane in selected regions. In the accommodation sector, seasonal workers can be recruited to work in positions including café workers, bar staff, kitchen hands and housekeepers.

Australia’s leading accommodation associations were quick to welcome the announcement.

“The extension of the Seasonal Workers Program to cover the whole of WA is a positive development for the accommodation industry,” the Accommodation Association of Australia’s CEO, Richard Munro, told HM.

“Attracting and retaining staff is one of the most significant challenges facing accommodation operators in regional areas, particularly in WA, and this change has the potential to make a real difference.

“If successful, it will ultimately result in accommodation operators providing visitors with more services, as well as a much higher level of customer service which will enhance Australia’s overall tourism product.

“Our members have and will continue to enthusiastically support the Seasonal Workers Program.

“Our industry would like the program to be extended to even more areas,” he said.

Tourism Accommodation Australia’s Managing Director Rodger Powell was similarly positive.

“I would like to congratulate Gary Gray for seeing through to completion the work initiated with his predecessor Martin Ferguson by Des Crowe, National CEO of the AHA within such a short time of commencing with the portfolio,” he told HM.

“We look forward to seeing the results of the expanded trial soon and to hopefully seeing the program endorsed for use across all of Australia.

“We also wish Gray every success in his continuing quest to have the decision of the ABS to cut the Survey of Tourist Accommodation reversed,” Powell said.