The Commonwealth has proposed easing restrictions on working visas in an effort to allow more seasonal workers from overseas into Australia.
That’s a move that the Northern Territory has embraced. The government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia emphasised that resolving a number of labour shortages could be the key to fuelling the region’s economic growth.
In the white paper, which was released on June 18, the government noted that businesses in the north require a diverse range of skill sets, from medical specialists and managers to fruit pickers and construction workers.
However, “the north is hampered by localised worker shortages and high wage costs which deter investment”, the white paper noted. Seasonal conditions, such as wet periods, further create difficulty in attracting and retaining the right workforce – as do industries that require workers to be away from their families and homes for periods of time.
Although the region’s first priority in mitigating these challenges is to try to get Australians into positions, as ABC News reported, the white paper also acknowledges that companies will require more opportunities to bring in support from overseas.
“Of course we’d like to see more seasonal workers to be able to meet some of the job demands or vacant jobs that are here in the Northern Territory right now, but the numbers that are out there I think are a very good start,” Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles told ABC News.
“It allows for us to be able to say to the Australian Government and the Australian community that we are running the seasonal workers program as best we can because this will be a significant escalation in the numbers that we already have.”
The white paper noted that in addition to expanding the working holiday visa programme, the Commonwealth has created a Designated Area Migration Agreement with the Northern Territory. This means it will have greater flexibility to sponsor and employ semi-skilled and skilled workers from abroad, while also providing opportunities to help 457 visa-holders attain permanent residency.