Small business groups call for no quarantine for fully vaxxed temporary visa holders


Small business groups are backing calls from the national chamber of commerce to scrap quarantine for all fully vaxxed international arrivals, in an attempt to address the worker shortage that’s dragging recovery in a host of industries.

Restaurant and Catering, the peak hospitality association, is urging the federal government to allow temporary visa holders to enter the country more easily in response to a nation-wide worker shortage in the industry.

Wes Lambert, chief executive of Restaurant and Catering, tells SmartCompany he wants to see the government add more job types to the priority skilled occupation list and allow international students to work uncapped hours in tourism and hospitality businesses.

“We must get fully vaccinated working holiday makers, international students and skilled migrants back in the country specifically for tourism and hospitality,” Lambert says.

According to SEEK data, the number of job ads in the hospitality industry increased from 84,378 on October 22 to 90,231 on November 2. There are currently 20,168 ads live for baristas alone.

But the shortage of workers arising from border restrictions is not only affecting tourism and hospitality businesses, with small business associations from the Australian Hairdressing Council to the Australian Human Resources Institute also reporting a critical shortage of staff.

Members of the Council of Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA), which is made up of more than 20 industry associations, are urging the government to allow more temporary visa holders to enter the country without having to quarantine.

Worker shortages ‘across the board’

Alexi Boyd, chief executive of COSBOA, says the shortage of workers is the number one issue facing the organisation’s members, and not just in the industries where challenges are expected.

“Across the board, all of our members are experiencing issues with workers because we haven’t got that influx of international students and skilled and unskilled workers,” Boyd tells SmartCompany.

She is calling on the government to engage with industry groups to discuss the skilled migration list to ensure it’s relevant for businesses at this stage of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’re calling on the government to have a worthwhile discussion with industry groups. The lists that were in place two years ago are not really relevant for what small business needs right now,” she says.

The push by small business groups to scrap quarantine for temporary visa holders follows calls from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) for the federal government to “outline a timetable for the return of all other fully vaccinated international arrivals”.

Andrew McKellar, chief executive of ACCI, said on Tuesday that the country’s economic recovery hinges on the ability of the tourism industry, the university sector and other businesses facing critical skills shortages to rebound from the pandemic.

“While the rest of the world is moving on from closed borders, we’re at risk of getting left behind,” McKellar said in a statement.

Businesses urgently need the borders to reopen to fully vaccinated arrivals, he added, suggesting not many people will return to Australia if they have to undertake quarantine.

“If students, tourists and migrants have a vaccine recognised by Australian authorities, they should be treated in a similar manner to returning Australians,” he said.

On Monday, international border restrictions eased for Australian citizens and residents and New Zealand citizens. These groups can enter NSW and Victoria without having to quarantine, if they are fully vaccinated.

From November 21, fully vaccinated Singaporeans will also be allowed to enter the country without having to quarantine in NSW or Victoria.


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