Mixing daiquiris and mining a top cocktail for economy
To put it bluntly, which job would you pick for your child: Ripping precious minerals from the soil for sale to Chinese billionaires, or mixing daiquiris for sale to Chinese billionaires?
It’s not an easy choice for a parent to make, and it has been just as hard for the Government.
Just 18 months ago the general idea was that the best labour management strategy was make sure all hands were on the mining boom pump.
The priority was to send our resources overseas as cheaply and efficiently as possible to take advantage of high prices.
Other exports could wait in line. Well, they can’t and that is one reason why the Government has had to look at finding staff for the tourism industry through a proposed guest worker scheme, as revealed by news.com.au on Monday .
On March 20 last year, Resources and Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson held the view that resorts were struggling so it was fine to transfer workers from the bars and swimming pools to the draglines and trucks of the mines.
He told a resources conference “why shouldn’t Cairns be considered a (mining) labour resource?’‘
“What we’re seeking to do is actually meet our labour needs…to avoid the tensions…with one sector surging ahead and another falling behind by changing the nature of how we service this economy from a skills point of view.’‘
Yesterday, Mr Ferguson announced that the formerly struggling incoming tourism industry is on the rise despite a conspiracy of factors against it, including the high value of the A$ and uncertainty in the global economy.
The number of business travellers coming to Australia rose by nine per cent in the 12 months to the end of June, for example. There were still resort areas “doing it tough’’ but top-shelf foreign tourists, the big spenders, left some $8 billion here during the year.
That is an important export market.
However, says Liberal tourism spokesman Bob Baldwin, the Government is responding at a snail’s pace and has neglected the industry’s long-term needs.
“The Government’s labour market policies of recent years has not avoided tensions as it hoped. It has merely transferred them from one sector to another,’’ Mr Baldwin said.
“Instead of considering initiatives to attract inbound tourists from Russia, China and India to Australia, the Labor Government cannibalised the tourism sectors workforce and sent them to work as truck drivers in remote mining communities.
“And now, a year and a half on, the Government is conceding a tourism labour market problem of its own creation, by revealing plans for Australia’s first guest worker scheme.’‘
That guest worker scheme would be an expansion of a pilot scheme for the horticulture. If adopted by cabinet, it would prove an important point.
While it is important to dig up rocks, the mixing of cocktails for moneyed overseas tourists is a source of valuable revenue for the national economy, and a start of a lucrative career for individuals.
There are plenty of semi-skilled or unskilled workers overseas ready to take up the jobs.
The Australian Tourism Export Council has underlined this while backing the guest worker idea.
The ATEC called it “a way of meeting the huge shortfall in labour experienced by tourism operators nationwide’‘.
Maybe they will get some of those miners back.
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