More nations, refugees needed to fill skills shortage with working holiday visas: report

More nations, refugees needed to fill skills shortage with working holiday visas: report
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The inquiry, chaired by Liberal MP Julian Leeser, has urged changes to allow working holiday visa holders to work in tourism and hospitality in all hard-to-staff rural and remote areas of Australia as part of their 88 days or six months to qualify for their second or third-year visa.

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The Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Migration’s report calls on the federal government to negotiate agreements with new countries to increase the pool of available working-holiday makers, which would in turn increase the flow of tourists into Australia once international travel can safely return.

It found new deals would also provide young Australians the potential reciprocal value that can be gained for young people travelling to these new countries.

The scheme is currently open to applicants between 18 and 30 years old – or 35 years for tourists from Canada, France and Ireland – with the government also encouraged to increase the upper age limit to 35 where bilateral negotiations can bring about the same outcome for Australians.

Mr Leeser said working holiday makers made a significant contribution to Australia, not only through their tourism spending, but by supplementing the seasonal workforce, and through cultural exchange.

“Giving the circumstances we are faced in because of pandemic, it is clear there is a need to further promote the opportunities that exist for Australians and other visa holders to help with areas of critical need,” he said.

The scheme provides uncapped visas to 19 partner countries and regions including Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom and capped visas to another 25 partner countries.

The report also calls for concessions to those already in Australia on Safe Haven Protection Visas and Temporary Protection Visas who undertake at least one year of agricultural or horticultural work in a regional area, and are prepared to settle in a regional areas.

There are about 17,000 refugees who came by boat to Australia years ago on two visa classes, TPVs which last three years and do not have a direct path to permanent residency rights, and SHEVs.

Labor MP Julian Hill said with the right incentives, it was clear these people could make a significant contribution to help fill critical labour shortages in regional Australia.

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“I encourage the government to take up the spirit of the recommendations and provide stronger incentives and a more realistic pathway to permanency for these genuine refugees, understanding that this could be of immediate practical benefit to the agricultural industry and regional Australia,” he said.

“In particular I encourage my parliamentary colleagues from the National Party to find their voice on this issue; to back the farmers and the refugees and say in public what they say in private.”



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