Incentives ‘too little, too late’

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
Keith and Clare Mugford are co-operating with the State Government to try and get qualified winery workers to help with the agriculture worker shortage
Camera IconKeith and Clare Mugford are co-operating with the State Government to try and get qualified winery workers to help with the agriculture worker shortage Credit: Tom Zaunmayr/The West Australian, Tom Zaunmayr

Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman is calling for a task force to address “unprecedented worker shortages” in regional agriculture and tourism businesses.

Last week, the State Government launched a $3 million package to motivate West Australians to take up work in the regions by paying their travel and accommodation costs.

The package, which comes into effect on Monday, will include $40 a night for accommodation and up to $500 for travel for each worker relocating to the regions for work.

Mr Redman described the package as “too little, too late” and said he wasn’t convinced it would make a difference because of a lack of accommodation.

“There are numerous factors that deter someone from Perth moving to the regions, including the nature of the work, distance from home, seasonality of the work, accommodation, and the location,” he said.

“I have called for a task force to be set up for the agricultural and hospitality sectors, with representatives from industry providing direct feedback to the State Government, including ideas on how to best navigate through the issue.”

Mr Redman said the task force should consider engaging small teams of backpackers from low-risk countries such as New Zealand, who have been through State quarantine requirements.

“We don’t want to see agriculture and tourism choking to death through a lack of workers.”

Moss Wood Wines director Keith Mugford said he employed skilled workers on the 417 visa to help with each vintage.

“Anything the State Government can do to assist us with that is much appreciated,” he said. “We call them our vintage staff, we need people who are qualified and keen to further work experience in the wine industry.”

“At the moments its really up in the air, we are talking to Adelaide University to get as many of their fourth year students to help with vintage. We’re working hard to find people to fill that gap that exists but their is also a serious lack of accommodation.”

Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the Government had been working with the industry since March on solutions and the timing of the campaign was intended to coincide with harvest periods.

“With harvest work peaking from October-December, we have ramped up promotional activities to meet industry need,” she said.

“Timing of the campaign and incentives is important – even the Nationals’ Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has acknowledged the merit of our inventive package.

“Our full focus is on mobilising West Australians and temporary residents to fill harvest jobs in WA.”

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