Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 01, 2022


South Australian Employment

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (14:41): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development and Minister for Forest Industries a question about job recruitment.

Leave granted.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Last week, I spotted slick advertisements posted on social media platforms by the Queensland government aimed at states like South Australia, offering inducements of $1,500 plus travel to entice our tradies to move from the most livable city on the planet to live and work in the place they call paradise.

South Australia, of all the states and territories, has suffered the most from young people leaving to find work interstate. We still have the highest rate of unemployment and one of the highest for underemployment. Businesses across the entire spectrum cannot fill vacancies, from tourism and hospitality through to construction. My question to the minister is:

1. Is she aware of the Queensland campaign?

2. What is the Malinauskas government going to do to counter it and make sure we keep our tradies here?

3. Does the Malinauskas government have its own plan to attract skilled labour and others to the state, aside from the ten-pound Pom stunt that is aimed predominantly at backpackers to work in primary production areas and plug some holes in the tourism sector in our regions?

4. Why has the government chosen ten-pound Poms, targeting only British persons, why not expand it to a ten-euro scheme to also entice Europeans, or ten greenbacks to entice Americans, or 100 yuan for Chinese backpackers?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:43): I thank the member for his ongoing interest in regional areas and regional communities. Perhaps to answer the second specific question first, which is in regard to the ten-pound Pom program, my advice is that there were 200 £10 or €10 airfares that went on sale on 10 May, and more than 2,000 people completed the booking form for the fares.

A subsequent fare sale targeting those who missed out on the £10 and €10 fares was launched on 24 May. That sale sees £499 and €499 fares to Adelaide for working holiday-makers and has the potential to attract 500 to 1,000 more working holiday-makers booking a flight to Adelaide for arrival before the end of October 2022.

In terms of whether that may be expanded, I don't have any information on that, but I am happy to inquire whether there are any plans to expand that. But I think it is worth mentioning that those backpackers who are targeted with this sort of program do play a very important role in filling all sorts of vacancies.

Certainly, it's targeted towards hospitality, but often when backpackers visit a place like Australia they will engage in employment in different sectors. It might be fruit picking, it might be assisting with other harvests, it might be working in hospitality. I think it's certainly worth mentioning and acknowledging that that type of program can have quite a broad application.

In terms of the inducements being offered by the Queensland government, according to the honourable member, to entice tradies and skilled workers to Queensland, I do agree that it's absolutely outrageous that they call themselves paradise when clearly we are the best state as well as being the most livable city. I don't know if the member is aware that Western Australia has also invested quite heavily in advertising. I certainly know that when I went to the movies a couple of months ago, there were all sorts of ads trying to encourage, again, I think it was particularly tradies, from memory, and others to move to Western Australia.

All of those programs are a reflection of the very tight labour market that we have and the skills shortages that we have across the country, not just across the state. There are a number of ways that the Malinauskas Labor government is looking at trying to address our skills shortages and our workforce shortages. The member has already mentioned the ten-pound Pom program, which is also a ten-euro program, and there are a range of other initiatives.

One of the really important things, though, is we also want to make sure that we always have a balance between attracting those from overseas and interstate and actually training up the workforce from within our own state. That's why so many of the pre-election commitments made by the Labor Party, which we are now on the way to implementing, focus on training and skills.

We need to ensure that, when we need a skilled workforce, we are doing everything we can to train that workforce from within the population of our own state. That includes, for example, the announcement of five new technical colleges, two of which will be in regional areas: one in Port Augusta and one in Mount Gambier. It includes the additions of funding into TAFE and ensuring that we are able to really focus on those areas that have critical skills needs.

I think it's certainly worth inquiring whether we have considered a particular type of program of the type to which the honourable member refers, but I guess it does highlight that we will then be competing state against state to try to attract workforce. What we want to do is certainly not rule out programs that might show a good return on investment, and I think that's the most important thing. We don't want to be spending money on advertisements or enticements if they don't actually result in improving the workforce situation here, but at the same time we can look at whether there is a return on investment from those sorts of programs.

But, even more importantly, we need to ensure that we are skilling up those who are already here in South Australia, who don't then need to have the challenge of relocating, who can actually form the workforce for the future, because we don't just want to be looking short term. We want to be looking at a generation to come and even further.

The PRESIDENT: A supplementary question, the Hon. Mr Pangallo.