Category Archives: jobs

Tourism sector lobbies Government to extend JobKeeper for another six months

The tourism industry is warning of hundreds of thousands of job losses and a complete collapse of the sector, if the Federal Government does not extend its coronavirus wage subsidy scheme for another six months beyond the September end date.

Key points:

  • New modelling from the tourism industry warns of monthly job losses of 133,000 by December without ongoing government support
  • The Federal Government is reluctant to extend JobKeeper beyond its September end date
  • The sector believes opening up domestic travel, and a trans-Tasman bubble will only go part of the way to fixing the problem

The Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) has written to the chair of the Prime Minister’s National COVID-19 Commission, painting a bleak picture for the industry and pleading for the JobKeeper payment to be extended until at least March 2021.

Modelling commissioned by the TTF, and released, shows monthly job losses rising from 33,000 in August to at least 133,000 by December if JobKeeper ends on schedule, with lost wages soaring from $1.3 billion to $5.3 billion in that same period — even with the return of domestic travel.

“To be perfectly frank, if there isn’t JobKeeper or a similar level of support extended to the industry, there won’t be much of the tourism industry left this time next year,” TTF chief executive Margy Osmond told the ABC.

“At this point in time, the industry is 65 per cent down on the number of jobs it would normally hold.

“So, we’re sitting at just over 230,000 jobs in an industry that would normally have about 660,000 direct jobs.”

The Federal Government is reluctant to extend the wage subsidy beyond September, partly because of how difficult it is to define certain sectors which will need ongoing support, such as in tourism.

It is understood transitioning people to the JobSeeker unemployment benefit, and keeping it at its now higher rate — either permanently or through an ongoing supplement payment — is being discussed.

The tourism sector argued coronavirus restrictions had hit it earlier and harder than other industries. Travel restrictions and demands for social isolation at the height of the outbreak crippled tourism, transport and hospitality businesses across the country.

The TTF warned without additional support, many small and medium tourism operators may close their doors for good.

“The tourism sector is quite unique in this space — we’re absolutely governed by what will happen with the borders, both domestic and international,” Ms Osmond said.

While the sector has been looking forward to the return of interstate holidaymakers, and the much-hyped ‘Trans-Tasman Bubble‘, Ms Osmond argued it would not solve all of the industry’s woes.

“We’ll probably see less than 100,000 people coming from New Zealand over the six months after we actually open a trans-Tasman bubble, and many of them will actually be visiting friends and family,” she said.

“Your average Chinese visitor spends about $8,500 when they’re here, compared to probably around $1,500 from a local tourist.

“It’s going to take a lot of work to bring that up to scratch, and I can’t see that happening.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Federal Government was due to review the JobKeeper program at the end of June.

“We recognise that some sectors like tourism will face ongoing challenges, particularly if our international borders remain closed for some time,” he said in a statement.

“It is critically important that we lift border restrictions as domestic tourism is worth around 70 per cent of Australia’s overall tourism industry.

ED: Have your say! Comments most welcome.

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow

Working holiday inquiry must make backpacker program more attractive

An inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker program will ensure it is working effectively to support tourism, health care and agriculture during the COVID-19 economic recovery.

The Joint Standing Committee on Migration launched the inquiry, stating that working holidaymakers contribute about $3 billion a year to the Australian economy and support jobs in regional Australia.

Working holidaymakers are a major contributor to the labour force in the agriculture, tourism, health care and aged care sectors.

There are about 50,000 fewer backpackers in Australia because of the coronavirus.

But once borders re-open, they will be key to filling some roles where Australian workers are usually not available, particularly in regional areas.

The committee will look at how backpackers can complement, rather than compete with those Australian workers laid off because of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Why a skilled worker shortage could push up the price of fruit

Matt Heyes, founder of Backpacker Job Board – a site that helps connect working holidaymakers and employers throughout Australia – welcomed the inquiry.

“Even putting the COVID-19 crisis aside, take-up numbers for the Working Holiday Program have been slowly reducing year-on-year,” Mr Heyes said.

“The package is in need of review.”

“As part of the review, the program needs to be contrasted with similar schemes in other countries. We must make sure that the Australian WHM program competes favourably against other countries.

“Australia is home to some of the most remarkable natural landscapes in the world.

“Working holidaymakers will want to come and be part of a cultural exchange here – but the program itself needs to match (and better) peoples’ expectations.

“We hope the inquiry is not only thorough but is also able to promptly respond to the current crisis and make recommendations which can be expeditiously implemented to help a wider recovery effort.

“This is much-needed to help support the tourism sector and also those industries which rely so heavily on international backpackers.”

Mr Heyes said he’d like the review to revise the backpacker tax and bring back the tax-free threshold.

“Increased regulation and simplification of the current second-year visa extension scheme is also required.”

He would also like to see backpackers who have previously enjoyed a working holiday in Australia offered access to a second.

“This would be a separate scheme to the current second and third-year extensions,” he said.

“An offer of an additional working holiday, to those who may have visited many years ago, would result in a much-needed boost to overall numbers.”

The impact of COVID-19 was far and wide-reaching.

“One of the most difficult issues currently impacting employment is the closure of state borders,” Mr Heyes said.

“Usually, backpackers are more than happy to travel interstate and relocate for the right job opportunity.

“Currently, backpackers are restricted by where they can travel for work.

“What’s more, when following the harvest seasons around the country, backpackers currently have to quarantine on arrival for 14 days prior to commencing work on a farm.”

Mr Heyes said the hospitality and agriculture industries have been hit hard by COVID-19 – two sectors of the Australian economy which rely on the backpacker workforce.

Crops won’t wait for markets to recover or a replacement workforce to skill-up.– Matt Heyes, Backpacker Job Board founder

“It’s encouraging that we are now seeing green shoots in the hospitality sector.

“Seek announced recently that they have seen a 138 per cent increase in hospitality job ads.

“We’re are also seeing a very similar situation here on the Backpacker Job Board.”

However, Mr Heyes said agriculture is a more complex situation.

“Crops won’t wait for markets to recover or a replacement workforce to skill-up.

“The seasonal nature of agriculture has meant that there’s been a strong demand for work in this area throughout.

“We’ve seen more competition for recruitment, with farmers spending more than usual on recruitment advertising,” Mr Heyes said.

Warren, NSW, farmer Malcolm McKay knows all too well how reliant the agricultural industry is on holiday workers.

COVID-19 has made the already difficult task of attracting workers to regional areas even harder.

“We were lucky to find a local person to help with sowing but we are very concerned about finding holiday workers to assist with grain harvest later in the year,” Mr McKay said.

“With good rain so far and crops looking extremely healthy, there is great potential for excellent yields.”

The possibility of good yields means that securing an adequate number of experienced workers, with the required skills, is vital.

“We usually source seasonal workers from overseas for harvest – we are worried about finding workers due to COVID-19,” Mr McKay said.

“Usually, there are plenty of backpackers looking to get their visa extended and this year we expect it hard to find workers.

“If yields are high, more workers are required.

“Trying to find workers with farm experience will be extremely difficult and we believe it will be almost impossible to find backpackers that know how to use the machinery and technology involved.

“Almost all farms in our area employ at least one to two backpackers for harvest.

“We are looking at employing three so far if we have good yields.”

Source: farmonline

Sourced by Mike Barrow

Migrant workers call for coronavirus support amid fears of ‘crisis situation’

They pay tax and help prop up the economy, but many of the 2 million international students and migrant workers in Australia are now without financial support, and facing a dire situation.

Because of coronavirus many have no way to earn an income to pay rent, buy food or support their families, and they are often ineligible for the Government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments.

Anna Boucher, global migration expert and associate professor at Sydney University, tells ABC RN’s Life Matters that people on temporary visas make up “about 10 to 12 per cent of the workforce”.

The Government has advised them to return home, arguing we’ve got enough to worry about with our own citizens, but experts say we need to support migrant workers both for moral and economic reasons.

So who deserves what support? And how does Australia measure its ethical obligation to these workers?

‘So much more in tune’ with Australia

Temporary visa holders represent many different kinds of migrants with varying working permissions. Some see the process as a pathway to permanent residency in Australia.

Camille was born in France and came to Australia in 2009 to study her master’s. She is a university lecturer and tutor, moving from casual contract to casual contract.

A smiling woman stands on a deck in front of a lush, green garden
For Camille, going home to France isn’t an option, personally or professionally.

“I moved here when I was 21. And I’m going to be 33. Most of my adult life has been in Australia,” she says.

“My professional life, my personal life, I’m so much more in tune with what’s happening in Australia.”

Eva Su is on a working holiday visa from Taiwan. She lost her hospitality job after coronavirus forced restaurants and cafes to close and has been relying on help and food from the local community.

A woman in a red jumper stands in front of a natural vista featuring a river and mountains.
Eva had been employed in hospitality on a working holiday visa until coronavirus restrictions took place.

“I have been contacting different charities, and I’m glad that one of the charities called St Vincent de Paul. Once I contacted them they showed up in front of my door the next day,” Eva says.

“I was quite surprised. They offered me some vouchers to Woolworths and were really kind.”

She says many temporary visa holders are trying to get out to “explore the world”, and that the Government’s response to people in her situation could discourage young people like her from taking this chance in the future.

People facing ‘a crisis situation’

Dr Boucher says because of this attitude, Australia’s reputation as a study destination could be in danger.

“There is a risk that we will be seen as a country that is not ideal,” she explains.

“We know from a recent study that Canada is now a more popular destination for international students. That may in part reflect a perceived greater humanitarian outlook towards temporary migrants in that country.”

Camille says Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s message to “go home” was an unreasonable request that made her feel like “a bit of a second class citizen”.

“I think I could take a flight back home. But that would mean being separated from my partner, [and] I don’t have any work prospects there,” she explains.

“In France my parents would be happy to see me, but that’s about it.”

Although as an academic, her hours are uncertain into the future, Camille is confident her work ethic and connections will hold her in good stead in Australia.

Who deserves what?

So far, temporary visa holders have been excluded from accessing the same level of support as Australian students and workers. But if temporary workers are employees who pay tax, should they be entitled to help from the Government?

While it’s fair to recognise that citizens’ rights come first, that doesn’t have to be the Government’s only responsibility, says Joo-Cheong Tham, deputy chair of the Migrant Worker Centre in Melbourne and professor at the Melbourne University Law School.

Professor Joo-Cheong Tham says Australia should help both citizens and migrant workers. Professor Tham says this level of help should be “a floor, rather than a ceiling”.

“Our moral principles are not just restricted to citizens,” he says.

“We have temporary visa holders, some of whom would have lived here for a significant period of time, who have contributed to our society … they should be accorded the same rights and entitlements as other members of Australian society.

“This week the New South Wales state government joined Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT in announcing relief packages for temporary visa holders.

After federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg revised the JobKeeper cost down from $130 billion to $70 billion, he made it clear that the Government didn’t plan on making major changes to who was included under the scheme.

Professor Tham says it’s not enough for various states and territories to manage migrants’ welfare on their own.

“We have a crisis that’s so broad and deep that really it’s only the Commonwealth Government that has adequate resources to actually effectively address the dire situation that many temporary visa holders are in,” he says.

And when it comes to framing the discussion around help for temporary visa holders, Professor Tham says politicians from both sides using the rhetoric of “putting Australians first” is “terribly unhelpful”.

“It casts these two groups [Australian citizens and migrants] as hostile groups. I think it is wrong to treat temporary visa holders, or any human being for that matter, as simply a means to a policy goal,” he explains.

“We need to have … principles that recognise the status of these temporary visa holders as human beings, as workers, and importantly as members of the community.”

While Camille recognises that Government has a limit on how much money it can spend to support people during the crisis, even a token amount — “something just as small as $1,000” — wouldn’t go astray.

In fact, she says it would be like the Government sending a message about how it values their work: “We were there for you when you came into the country helping your industry. Whenever there’s a problem, we’re there as well.”

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow

Backpackers working with BlazeAid create a bridge between varied cultures and fire-devastated farmers

Playing Monopoly or building a volleyball court in a showground in a country town are not the images usually associated with international backpackers spending up to two years in Australia.

A veritable league of nations is assisting with the rebuilding of fences and other farm infrastructure across NSW after bushfires ravaged the state earlier this year.

For international backpackers in Australia, their holiday was likely to be cut short because of being unable to work due to strict coronavirus guidelines.

Making a difference

Scottish BlazeAid backpacker volunteers for fencing
Ben Braid found himself fencing as a BlazeAid volunteer after his working holiday in the fitness industry was halted due to coronavirus.(Supplied: Marilyn Spence)

They received a reprieve when the Government allowed people like Ben Braid from Scotland to carry out volunteer work with organisations like BlazeAid assisting farmers to rebuild their fences destroyed in the fires.

“When you rebuild, and the farmer looks back and sees the old fences back up and working, it makes you feel a lot better realising that you have helped,” Mr Braid who is in his first year of his working visa.

It is a sentiment shared by numerous overseas backpackers who have had their journey across the globe greatly changed because of the pandemic.

Guidelines to follow

It is a long way from Kent in England to the Wingham Showground which is home to 29-year-old Sophie Hampton while she works with Ben Braid and other volunteers.

“There is a big track that goes around, and we’ve been doing a lot of running and things like yoga. We are trying to keep active as much as possible.

“Listening to music and sitting around a fire is popular. Card games as well and Monopoly is a big one which becomes quite competitive.”

All of this happens at the end of the day after returning from the various farms.

Their efforts are being governed by strict guidelines which set out how they must live and carry out their BlazeAid duties.

International backpackers fulfil visa requirements as BlazeAid volunteers
he backpackers head out each day from BlazeAid camps building fences on the bushfire properties such as this one at Bobin.(Supplied: Marilyn Spence)

While much has been relaxed, many of the normal day to day activities such as shopping are done for them.

In the south of the state, the guidelines are a little more relaxed, as there are fewer people to encounter in the areas where the work is being conducted.

A BlazeAid team is camped on the western edge of the Snowy Mountains, at the showground in the tiny village of Tooma near Tumbarumba.

Here the Dunn’s Road bushfire tore through thousands of hectares of valuable farmland, orchards, national park and pine forests.

Different encounters

The Tooma showground is stark and like the Wingham showground the teams are living in vans, swag or tent although at Wingham there are several shipping containers converted to living quarters.

The conditions are very different to what backpackers would normally encounter on the more worn paths of young international travellers.

It has even led to Erika Bayard from France who helps co-coordinate the Tooma BlazeAid team to note that while the work may be quite physical, there is the question of added calories.

This is due to Argentinian volunteer Genoveva Cabrera, a qualified chef ensuring the camp food is first class. “We get amazing food every day, we’re getting fat.

“Which is surprising as we’re working so hard,” Ms Bayard said.

“We’re eating all these home-made cakes and everything. We’re pretty lucky. Sometimes a nice farmer comes along with fresh lamb and we have a nice roast.”

‘Amazing and grateful’

It is that contact with locals and the work that they are doing in a rural area that Ms Bayard believes adds to the experience.

“We’re getting to know real Australian culture, and everyone is so friendly and so open. “They’re so amazing and so grateful to have people coming from all around the world to help them and we’re having a great time with everyone here.”

It is a sentiment echoed by Marilyn Spence who along with husband Geoff had the international BlazeAid backpackers out to their Bobin property near Wingham for five weeks.

The fire forced them to sell off much of their Brangus cattle with the remainder going to their son’s property in the Hunter Valley.

The backpackers-come-fencers repaired four kilometres of boundary fences.

“We’ve had around eight different nationalities. They were keen to learn. Could not fault them. Never a grumble never a complaint. The bubble and laughter were wonderful,” Mrs Spence said.

Back home hears of their work

From au pair to rebuilding bushfire affected farm infrastructure
Twenty-four-year-old Lucie Arguel-Paraire went from being an au pair in a holiday resort on a working visa to fencing.(Supplied: Marilyn Spence)

So impressed was Mrs Spence, that she did a “mothering thing” after the volunteers had finished. “I wanted the parents to know how wonderful they were and a delight.

“I thought their parents would like to know, so sent a few photos and a letter saying thank you for allowing them to travel and to have them around.”

Ms Bayard said they looked forward to restrictions easing to welcome more members to the crew which is a far cry from most people’s lockdown experience.

“My friends back home in Europe or in lockdown in the cities, they can’t get out of their place and they’re bored out of their mind.

“They’re texting me every day and I don’t have time to text them back because we’re so busy here.

“The biggest issue we have in lockdown is trying to get new volunteers while keeping everyone safe and trying not to spread the virus in a small community like Tooma.”

source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow

Letter to Government from Adventure Tourism Victoria

The Federal Government has a critical responsibility to continue the JobKeeper program as it was originally announced on 30 March 2020.

That’s why today Adventure Tourism Victoria ( ATV ), on behalf of its members, is writing in support of the JobKeeper program as it was originally announced.

Employers have only just begun to receive financial support as MPs start to endorse JobKeeper rollback.

This cannot happen. With hospitality businesses still shut, state and national borders still closed, and air travel all but halted, tourism will struggle way past the 27th of September, never mind recover before that date. JobKeeper is absolutely imperative to get tourism businesses through this period .

The Federal Government’s instruction to businesses was clear: “Keep paying your employees.” If businesses could not afford to make payroll, the Federal Government directed them to take out private, government-backed loans, with businesses taking on the cost of financing.

Now, businesses have implemented plans to make the most of their staffs’ time on the JobKeeper, enrolling them in upskilling, taking on renovations, and embarking on product development.

As a result, ATV members have taken on significant risk in response to the JobKeeper announcement.

The withdrawal or rollback to JobKeepers would also affect commercial rental relief for our members.

Upon the Federal Government’s direction, Victoria introduced new acts and regulations such as:

● COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020

● COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) (Commercial Leases and Licences) Regulations 2020

Both Omnibus bills define eligibility by whether “the tenant qualifies for, and is a participant in, the Jobkeeper scheme” (COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 section 13 (b) (2)).

By bringing the JobKeeper program into doubt, commercial landlords are given a perverse incentive not to negotiate in good faith, but bide their time till JobKeepers is withdrawn.

ATV welcomes the debate over the implementation of JobKeeper. Yet this debate must regard further expansions or extensions of the program. To roll back the JobKeeper program before it has completed its initial run leaves already vulnerable businesses even more exposed.

We trust the Federal Government will honour its commitments and continue the JobKeeper program through 27 September, as originally announced.

Signed,

John O’Sullivan

On behalf of Adventure Tourism Victoria

Adventure Tourism Victoria (ATV) is a not-for-profit organisation comprised of 43 adventure tourism operators throughout Victoria. Our members comprise of tour operators, backpacker hostels, transportation companies and travel tech organisations.

atv.org.au

adventuretourismvictoria@gmail.com

ABN 67205234405

Press Contact: John O’Sullivan, Executive Committee Member & Founding Director of Walks 101 / 0403647923 /

john@walks101.com