Western Australia tourism industry pushes for relaxed Working Holiday visa rules

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Western Australia Tourism Minister Kim Hames is pushing Australian immigration to relax rules for the Working Holiday visa to help fill job vacancies in the hospitality and tourism industry.

Hames wants the 12-month Australian working holiday maker visa to be extended to two years and wants a restriction which limits visa-holders to six months per job to be relaxed. Currently, working holiday makers are able to extend their visas by 12 months if they spend 88 days in a regional industry in the agriculture, mining, construction or fishing sectors. The WA Tourism Council wants Australian immigration to extend this Australian visa rule to cover tourism and hospitality.

The main purpose of the Australian Working Holiday visa is to allow people aged 18 to 30 years to have an extended holiday while supplementing their income with short-term work in Australia.

Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall stated that it was "absolutely ridiculous" that mining companies were allowed to recruit immigrant workers yet the tourism industry was restricted from doing so. The council claims that the state's tourism industry is being hindered by a lack of workers.

According to the Australian Tourism Export Council, there are around 36,000 tourism vacancies across the country with the numbers expected to double in the next three years.

"Specifically the requirement for people who are backpackers to only be able to stay a year, and only to be able to do six months in a particular job," said Hames who also wrote to Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen requesting the visa laws be relaxed in WA. "We'd like to see both of those doubled, because they're the people that are out there, in our regions, taking on the jobs that other people don't want, particularly in our tourism and hospitality industry."

Australian Hotels Association chief executive Bradley Woods agreed with claims that the tourism industry was finding it increasingly difficult to attract workers.

"The mining boom is doing very well, but it's also drawing staff out of hospitality, accommodation and other tourism businesses," he said. "The Commonwealth laws make it extremely hard for us to get staff. When it's hard to find staff, it's hard to get good service, it's hard to equip hotels, resorts and many other businesses with the right number of staff."

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