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What the Papers Say

DAMA may help ease jobs crisis

Chronic job shortages in sectors such as hospitality, childcare and administration in the Pilbara could become easier to fill with the revival of a migration plan that would allow small businesses to hire foreign workers for certain roles.

A Pilbara designated area migration agreement (DAMA) was proposed years ago but put on ice due to a lack of WAGovernment support.

But since then the Federal Government has begun a renewed push to introduce such migration agreements in parts of regional Australia, without the former requirement for States to approve the deal.

The agreement would allow migrants to come to the Pilbara to fill job shortages for occupations including childcare worker, teacher's aide, waiter, office manager, book keeper, sales assistant, commercial cleaner and livestock farm worker - with the list of occupations likely to be expanded subject to negotiations in coming months.

Durack MHR Melissa Price said a Pilbara DAMA would make a "big difference" to small and mediumsized businesses in the region.

"We always want Australians to take Australian jobs - that's our priority - but in a place like the Pilbara, where people come up here and they're looking for wellpaid jobs, and they often will be able to get that opportunity working for a mining company, it's those other occupations like cleaning and hospitality, where people are crying out for workers," she said.

"So we as a Federal Government need to come to the party, and we are doing that now, and this will be a special set of arrangements so it will be easier to bring people in from overseas to fill those jobs."

The Pilbara Regional Council has been the main advocate for a Pilbara DAMA since proposing the idea in late 2012.

Chairwoman Lynne Craigie said the local government authority was excited the "long overdue" agreement was nearing implementation after spending years on the shelf.

"If we can increase the number of workers coming into our towns and bringing their families, there would be great regional benefits in that," she said.

"That's not to take away jobs for people already here or Australians willing to come to the region to do them, but the sad reality is we can't get those people to come."

She said with the PRC likely to undergo a restructure next year, the group hoped a Pilbara local government would step in and lead the agreement on behalf of the region.

Karratha and Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kylah Morrison said the Pilbara's less than two per cent unemployment rate and public image problem meant many businesses had difficulty holding onto staff or hiring new employees.

A DAMA was one way of easing that pressure.

"The impact of those shortages is huge because we don't consider the cost of on-boarding someone new to the organisation.

"If that person moves on in a year, it's a sunk cost," she said.

"If they can hire someone that's going to stay, it gives them consistency and continuity to expand and grow in business rather than just trying to survive."

A State Government spokesman said the government did not support a Pilbara DAMA at this stage because their priority was to place West Australians first when it comes to securing jobs in WA.

A similar migration agreement is also being developed for Kalgoorlie.

Source - Pilbara News

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