Tasmania makes plea for visa rule changes

Tasmanian businesses are urging the Australian federal government to allow employers in the island state to adopt the same temporary work visa rules currently used in the Northern Territory.

Last year, Northern Territory employers – along with those in other areas of northern Australia – were granted permission to allow working holiday visa holders to work for up to 12 months with one employer and be able to count hospitality jobs towards a further visa extension.

In Tasmania, as with the rest of the country, visa holders can only stay with a single employer for six months and must work in a sector such as fruit picking to extend their stay to a second year.

However, Tasmania is currently facing a significant worker shortage, particularly in areas traditionally popular with temporary workers. The federal government has targeted attracting up to 1.5 million tourists per year to Tasmania by 2020 – an outcome that would require 8,000 new jobs – many in hospitality and other tourist related jobs.

It is an increase that many employers think is simply unrealistic under the current circumstances. “We’re having difficulty getting locals to demonstrate an interest in taking up roles in those areas,” Harvey Lennon, the Chief Executive of the RACT told the Sunday Tasmanian. “Greater flexibility around the visa arrangements would definitely be favourable.”

An Immigration and Border Protection spokesman said it was too early to say how effective the new rules had been in Northern Australia, although the Federal Tourism Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck, has pledged to take a package of reforms which would include new visa proposals to the government early this year.