The WA Government is urging the resources sector to follow BHP and Rio Tinto in favouring local workers and is also offering cash to entice seasonal agricultural labour to the regions as the closed border keeps out backpackers.
COVID-19 travel restrictions have reducd backpacker numbers in WA to less than half the usual, leading to labour shortages across a range of occupations, and farmers are worried about who will help with harvests.
WA Premier Mark McGowan is labelling it “a unique opportunity” for the state’s young people.
“We are calling on young West Aussies to take this opportunity to get the ‘backpacker holiday experience’ at home – broadening horizons, getting to know your regions and all they have to offer,” Mr McGowan said.
Under the $3 million package, eligible workers who move to the regions will be able to claim thousands of dollars in accommodation rebates and travel allowances.
“I’ve also requested the Federal Government to adjust their policy settings to ensure Western Australians who take up seasonal work in regional WA are not penalised financially.”
The announcement comes as it emerges BHP and Rio Tinto have heeded the State Government’s calls to favour local workers or stipulate interstate employees must move to WA.
Many hundreds have already done so, pocketing generous relocation packages.
Rio Tinto confirmed on Wednesday it had adopted the policy in mid-May, but BHP declined to provide details.
“What it means is more people with big incomes coming to work in Western Australia, build houses here, raise their families here and spend their money here,” Mr McGowan said.
“That’s a great thing.”
He said the pandemic had shown the fly-in-fly-out approach was problematic and urged other resource sector companies to follow the lead of the mining giants.