The recently announced itinerary for overseas trips by Premier Mark McGowan and Tourism Minister Roger Cook miss the mark in tackling the big issues facing Western Australia, according to Dr David Honey, WA Liberal Leader and Shadow Minister for State Development.
“Western Australia is one of the great trading States in the world. Therefore, travelling overseas to build and reinforce trading relationships is a critical responsibility for senior ministers.
“However, given the limited time available and the considerable cost to taxpayers, this travel needs to target the major issues facing the State.
“The immediate crisis facing our State is the critical shortage of workers and in particular semi and unskilled workers.
“The fact is that every industry in our State is desperate for unskilled workers – from agriculture, mining, tourism, hospitality through to housing. The greatest need is in housing.
“Prior to the COVID pandemic, many of these roles were filled by backpackers and overseas students.
“However, the McGowan Labor Government changes to the Skilled Migration Scheme eligibility in their last term and then the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of 2020 effectively stopped that source of labour. This was exacerbated by the hard border in WA and the ongoing low limits applied by the State on entry numbers. We are now living with the legacy of these combined impacts.
“The Premier and Tourism Minister should now be focussing on the labour shortage and focussing on countries that will immediately be a source of working visitors. In parallel, they need to urgently address the issue where those workers will live. The State has a conundrum – we desperately need a major influx of workers to increase housing stocks, but there is effectively nowhere for those workers to live.
“Most of the countries on the Minister’s travel itinerary will do very little to assist with the worker shortages.
“The biggest disappointment in the published travel plans is the Premier not visiting India. India has traditionally been WA’s major source of overseas students (20%) – an industry that took an $800 million hit due to border closures. We desperately need Indian students to return in large numbers to WA to reinvigorate the education sector and also help to fill the critical worker shortage.
“The Premier caused major problems with our relationship with India with his intemperate comments in April last year – describing India as the “epicentre of death and destruction” and questioning the honesty of their COVID test results.
“This why the Premier should be visiting India as soon as possible to repair our reputation and encourage their students to return to WA,” Dr Honey said.