Govt grilled over lack of worker data

Warren HatelyBusselton Dunsborough Times

The State Government is under pressure to explain how it will address a critical shortage of seasonal workers.

Questions raised in Parliament reveal Labor has no specific record of workers entering and leaving WA.

Margaret River-based Liberal MLC Steve Thomas has grilled Government ministers over efforts to harness more agricultural workers to meet seasonal demand, while also failing to record existing worker numbers.

Dr Thomas told the Times the failure to provide any statistics on workers entering WA was of great concern, after the MLC and the Times were initially referred to WA Police

“In terms of statistics or approvals for workers coming into the State, those specific questions need to be put to WA Police, as they manage the exemption process,” a spokesman for Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said.

WA Police said they did not manage those numbers but, under further questioning, referred the Times to advice provided in Parliament.

“The WA Police Force maintains high-level data on the movement of persons into the State that provides operational and tactical intelligence to inform critical decision-making and direct resource allocation,” the agency said.

“Due to the changing nature of directions, collection processes and development of systems, the information requested cannot be verified to a standard which would provide a sufficient level of confidence as to its accuracy for the purposes of statistical reporting to the Parliament.”

WA Police said that level of data collection “would be overly onerous and beyond current resourcing capacity”.

Dr Thomas demanded that the Government explain why the data was not available as part of its response to worker shortage concerns.

The stoush follows claims by Nationals WA that the Government’s Work and Wander Out Yonder campaign was “an abject failure”.

Ms MacTiernan told the Times there was “traditionally not a great deal of interstate movement of agricultural workers”.

She instead blamed the worker shortage on the Commonwealth Government’s international border closure.

“Every State and Territory is facing significant labour shortages,” she said.

“There is no easy supply of labour from the Eastern States.”

The minister said the Government was focused on helping workers from Vanuatu enter the State.

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