DAMA chameleon silent on migrant worker plan

Fears have been raised that WA Labor Government plans for a statewide worker migration agreement are undermining a similar agreement applied for much earlier by local governments of the Great Southern region.

Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson MP, whose electorate encompasses all of the Great Southern, said the region’s 11 municipalities were yet to hear the outcome of their application for a Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) lodged with the Department of Home Affairs in May 2023.

“Later, in February 2024, the WA Government announced it was considering applying for its own statewide DAMA, and the fear is that this has muddied the waters for Great Southern businesses that are crying out for staff,” Mr Wilson said.

“The former Coalition Government introduced the DAMA framework to help employers in the regions who are unable to fill positions with Australian workers.

“But under the aegis of Labor’s immigration minister Andrew Giles – who is under fire for his inept handling of the release of criminal detainees – it has been decreed that new requests for DAMAs will not be accepted pending an evaluation of immigration settings in regional Australia announced in December last year.”

On March 21, Mr Wilson wrote to Minister Giles stating that the moratorium on new DAMA applications must in no way hinder current applications, including the Great Southern’s. Mr Wilson is yet to receive a reply.

Now, Regional Development Australia Great Southern, which is co‑ordinating the DAMA application on behalf of the region’s local governments, has written to Minister Giles imploring him to promptly approve an agreement.

“The region’s local government authorities, through RDA Great Southern, showed great initiative in lodging their application more than 12 months ago, but all they’ve been told is that the application is still under consideration,” Mr Wilson said.

“Leaving communities and employers in limbo shows that Melbourne-based Minister Giles does not care about regional Western Australia.

“I can only hope that assessment of the Great Southern application has not been influenced by Labor’s trade union mates whose insertion as a third-party into the regional agreement process would be a disaster.”

RDA Great Southern’s letter to Minister Giles said that plans for a statewide DAMA must not “prejudice or undermine” a Great Southern agreement, a position with which Mr Wilson concurs.

“On this matter, the federal minister should heed the considered advice of RDA Great Southern, a Commonwealth-funded program, rather than the opinions of his State Labor colleagues,” Mr Wilson said.

“The Great Southern is a primary industries powerhouse, but its economic development is suffering thanks to the inability of chameleon-like Minister Giles to make a decision on this DAMA.

“I call on him to make a firm commitment to the region by promptly approving the agreement in order to give employers respite from the ongoing chronic skills and labour shortage.”

Of the 12 DAMAs in place across Australia, four are in WA; in the Goldfields, Southwest, East Kimberley and Pilbara.

Labor’s State Member for Albany Rebecca Stephens and its Federal Minister for Regional Development and Local Government Kristy McBain were copied into RDA Great Southern’s letter.

 

Media contact: Chris Thomson, (08) 9842 2777; [email protected]

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