05 October 2011

Working Holiday Visa reform flagged at Australian tax forum

A tourism industry body has used the Tax and Future Jobs Forum in Canberra this week to argue the economic benefits of making changes to the Australian Working Holiday Visa program.

Australia Visa

The Australian Tourism Export Council has called for reform of the working holiday visa to fill labour shortages in regional areas.

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has told delegates to the Australian Government's Tax and Future Jobs Forum that regional Australia would benefit from reform of the Australian visa program.

"Working Holiday Makers provide regional tourism operators with an important source of short term, qualified labour - bringing language skills and flexibility - clearly tourism is one industry that could significantly benefit from having greater access to an international workforce," said ATEC Managing Director Felicia Mariani in a statement released to the press yesterday.

Ms Mariani framed her call for visa reform within the context of the wider Australian economy.

"We have heard a lot about Australia's two-speed economy and the difficulty many industries are facing that are at odds with the strength of our overall economy resulting from the mining boom," she said.

"It is now crucial that the Federal Government look at ways to support other industries, such as tourism, to get the maximum advantage from Australia's overall strength and bring forward new opportunities for all".

Specifically ATEC is calling for changes to the Australian immigration program including allowing working holidaymakers to stay an extra year in Australia in exchange for working in a regional area where there is labour shortage; an increase in age limits for working holiday visa applications and allowing working holiday visas to be applied for a second time.

Ms Mariani cited a 2009 Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) report that found that while Australians were reluctant to relocate to regional areas for short-term work in the tourism industry, Working Holidaymakers often fill this labour gap. The current restrictions placed on these workers by their visa arrangements do not allow maximum benefit for Australian industry, says ATEC.

ATEC also used the opportunity of the national tax forum to praise comments made by Trade Minister Craig Emerson this week on the need for raising net migration to Australia to boost economic productivity in areas of need.

"Dr Emerson's call for increased permanent and temporary immigration directed to rural and regional areas are welcome news for the tourism industry which has long suffered severe shortages in appropriate, qualified labour," Ms Mariani said.

Australian Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy that specialises in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.

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