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STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT, WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION
Workforce challenges facing the Australian tourism sector
House of Reps
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT, WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION
Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR
Workforce challenges facing the Australian tourism sector
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT, WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION
(House of Representatives-Friday, 30 March 2007)
UGARTE, Mr Andrew
Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR
NAMBIAR, Mr Raman
CHAIR (Mr Hardgrave)
Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR
WESTERBEEK, Professor Hans
Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR
OLAH, Mr Peter
ACTING CHAIR (Mr Hayes)
BRIGGS, Ms Susan
SWEETMAN, Mr John
Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR
Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR
SWANCOTT, Mr Neal
STYLES, Mr Phillip Wasley
PICKETTE, Mr Rod
OSBORNE, Mr William John
TRELOAR, Mr Bruce Glennan
CHARTERS, Mr Tony
WORNER, Mrs Diana Theresa
JUSTO, Ms Jo
- UGARTE, Mr Andrew
Content WindowSTANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT, WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION - 30/03/2007 - Workforce challenges facing the Australian tourism sector
CHAIR —Welcome. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament and consequently require the same respect as proceedings of the House itself. It is customary to remind witnesses that giving false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. Having said that, would you care to make some introductory remarks?
Mr Olah —Yes, I would, Chair. Firstly, on behalf of the HMAA and the tourist accommodation industry across Australia, I thank you, Chair, and the committee members for the opportunity to appear before and to make a submission to this inquiry. I represent the HMAA, which is the national industry association representing the tourism accommodation industry. The industry ranges across a large number of different types of businesses from five-star, global hotel chains through to motel chains, independent motels, motor inns, bed and breakfast accommodation, camping grounds and includes everything in between. Our membership represents that broad range of accommodation interests. I will not go through our submission in detail because I know you have all had the opportunity to look at it. I will make a few key points from it.
The first regards the nature of the accommodation part of the Australian tourism industry and where it is similar to and where it is different from the tourism industry. Accommodation represents in dollar terms about 10 per cent of the Australian tourism industry. That is a contribution of somewhere between $7 billion and $8 billion to GDP. It represents a little over 10 per cent in terms of employment; direct employment from tourism is about 550,000 and about 100,000 of that is in the accommodation sector.
The similarities—and there are many—between accommodation and the rest of the tourism industry are these. Firstly, the Australian accommodation industry, notwithstanding the big presence of major international players, is an industry dominated by small and medium businesses. That brings all the strengths and weaknesses that SMEs bring to any sector. It is flexible. It can be quick to respond. It can also be disconnected. The level of entrepreneurship and management can be variable. Access to capital can be difficult. Like other parts of the tourism industry, the accommodation part is heavily reliant on the quality of its people. It is a labour intensive industry. In the end, what people buy from tourism is the experience, and the experience is about people. They are the similarities.
The key difference is that accommodation is, clearly, more capital intensive than most other parts of tourism. You need to have a physical place in which to carry out your business, and there is a cost attached to that, so there is more up-front capital required to make it work.
We have some clear evidence across our industry as to the fact that the labour and skills shortage is starting to bite. I use ‘labour’ quite deliberately. I think the focus on a skills shortage has really detracted from the broader debate about the fact that in some areas there is difficulty getting anyone, skilled or unskilled, into certain types of businesses.
Mr HAYES —That has been well and truly identified.
Mr Olah —Yes. For our membership we have carried out surveys. We had a general industry survey in May last year, which we will replicate in May this year. We had a specific survey in tropical North Queensland in the lead-up to a joint program that we were running as part of the Welfare to Work program with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
The data from the larger survey showed a number of things, but the most interesting thing—and the data is there for you to look at—is that the greatest difficulty our members are facing nationally in filling jobs is in base grade jobs like room attendants and cleaners. So it is not at the skilled end of the spectrum; it is at the semi- or lowly-skilled end of the spectrum. There are a number of reasons for that, and we have not done as much qualitative research as we would like, but we will. The main reason appears to be that a generation of largely non-English-speaking background workers have gone through those jobs—these are people who are now reaching retirement age—and there is no equivalent replacement coming through to do those jobs. That is what is happening at that end.
Clearly, at the other end, in skilled and semi-skilled positions, there is low availability and for those positions we are competing not just with other businesses in the tourism sector but across other industries such as mining and resources. The capacity of our industry to respond to those shortages is low compared to other industries. The main reasons for that are: (a) we are an industry dominated by SMEs that do not understand the market and cannot take a concerted response; and (b) that we are an industry that runs on low margins. So the capacity to have a purely price response is also very low. We cannot simply ratchet up what we offer in order to compete with, say, mining. That is the quantitative data.
Qualitatively, we have data that show things like in the peak season after the twin cyclones in North Queensland last year a number of accommodation businesses in the peak following that operated below full capacity simply because they could not find the people to clean the rooms to keep the rooms open. We have two or three examples of that occurring from members. Whilst not all of them will always go public, we have evidence that that is likely to be spreading. It happened first in North Queensland because it is a very seasonal location, so staff turnover is obviously very high and there is a recruitment imperative each year as a consequence.
There is some good news, and the good new is—let me take a step back. Members will be aware that TTF did some detailed research on recruitment and retention in the accommodation sector and that was released as a report a few months ago. Because of what TTF is, the targets of that research tended to be 4½- and five-star chains mostly located in CBD locations. It showed some, frankly, quite horrific results, especially in terms of staff turnover in the 50 to 60 per cent range for those businesses annually. The good news is that our figures for the broader industry show that, whilst turnover is still unacceptably high, it is significantly lower than that figure across the breadth of the industry; more in the region of 15 to 20 per cent. There are a number of reasons for that: the most commonly accepted one in the industry is the fact that smaller local businesses with local managers are more able to call their friend on the chamber of commerce and see who is available; and there is a closer employer-employee relationship. They are more likely to be friends who have dinner together and so on, so the retention rate is higher. It is still problematic and increasingly so, especially in those areas where there is a tight labour market and greater competition for labour—notably places like WA, Mount Isa, Mackay and so on.
We propose in that context that there are a number of issues that need to be looked at and a number of solutions divided into those areas. Firstly, we believe there are still, despite a lot of work being done on the tourism white paper, significant gaps in the data available for decision making in the industry. There is greater strategic data. There are fewer gaps in that data and it is more commonly available. What is not as widely available is day-to-day operational data—things like: what is happening in your industry or in your region with room fill rates across the industry? It is the stuff that allows businesses to make day-to-day operational decisions to maximise profitability. It is still not commonly available and is problematic. There are still gaps in data, there is still difficulty in accessing data and there are major issues with timeliness of data in the industry. The problem, of course, is if that data is not available, decisions about staffing are made by guesswork or gut feel, and those decisions can often therefore be wrong—wrong for both the employer and the employee.
Secondly, we strongly support the work that has already been done to ensure a full capture of available workers within Australia. Clearly, when you are talking about a gap in the availability of workers right across the spectrum from highly skilled to unskilled, that means there are jobs available for anyone who wants to work in our sector and has a personal cultural affinity towards the sort of work, which is a people based job. That work needs someone who is comfortable with that sort of day-to-day interaction. We are already cooperating with DEWR in a couple of locations with trial programs under the Welfare to Work program. However, we would be very supportive of any further initiative to maximise the access to our industry of people who are currently not in the workforce or those people who are not fully employed in it but wish to work longer hours than they currently are. The members of our industry are very open to that.
Let me say explicitly—this is based on survey data—that our membership, and we extrapolate that to the broader accommodation industry, generally supports the thrust of Work Choices. We do not want to enter a political debate—we are not a political organisation—but there is a broad belief that the flexibilities under Work Choices will serve the interests of our industry in the longer term. Having said that, I note that, as with most small businesses, if you give them time to adhere to a new legislative and regulatory regime, they will take every moment of that time, so the take-up of Work Choices in our industry sector is still fairly low. We anticipate that it will be ramped up this year, due to stage 3 of the employer advisory program. But, as always, when you give small businesses time with a new system they will take that time.
We certainly believe that we need to work across the tourism industry, and certainly in our part of it, to make tourism a more attractive career option. I think that, like me, most of you will have done some work in tourism and hospitality at some time in your career, having passed through the industry in a holiday job. It is not generally seen as something that is an attractive long-term career option. There are a number of reasons for that. They are outlined in our paper and I will not go into them.
However, there are upsides. Most significantly, there is the fact that it is a truly global career. In an environment in which young people want to travel and want to have options around the globe, that is a very attractive quality. However, we do not sell ourselves well. The industry does not gel all that well in sending out clear, positive messages about itself. We need to work together and we need to work with governments to improve that image.
We also strongly feel that we are operating in an environment of global competition for scarce sources of skills and labour. That is especially so with regional sources. We believe that we need to be an early entrant into that market and that we need to make it clear that we are a player in a global labour market. The members of our association certainly understand that there is a level of political sensitivity when talking about things such as guest worker programs, and we understand the reason for that sensitivity. We also understand that, in the context of a political debate about Work Choices, addressing these issues can be difficult. Our concern is that a failure to address these in a clinical, apolitical way could mean that we lose ‘first mover’ advantage on these regional sources of labour to other players in our regional market. An obvious example of a nonplayer to date is Japan. But, clearly, at some stage Japan will have to make a move into that market. When it does it will have huge advantages in terms of being able to compete on price. The United States is another example and some of the stronger South American economies are also examples. Within a short space of time places like South Korea will also be entering the same ageing spiral as we are and will be competing in the space. Our concern is that while we have some natural advantages—we are an attractive destination—if we do not get in there early we will be a late entrant and we will be fighting against the tide.
Last but not least as this is very important to us: there needs to be a continuing focus on the issues to do with training in our industry. As an industry, we support the industry skills council approach and we support the continuation of the skills council. We know that Service Skills Australia are addressing the committee later. We note that we work closely with them. We are represented on Service Skills Australia. However, there are clear issues in terms of still having a gap between the needs of industry, the needs of employers and the provision of skilled labour to meet those needs. For instance, there is a new set of competencies that have been worked on by the industry and Service Skills Australia for the last two years. Even the unions have been included in that process, so it has been a holistic process representing the needs of the industry, the workers and the specifiers.
That entire raft of unanimously supported recommendations for skills qualifications is being held up because two state based TAFE bodies do not like them, and the process requires unanimity from all of the state bodies. I would submit that that sort of process is just ridiculous and needs to be changed. Requiring unanimity where, effectively, two public servants can hold up a two-year national process involving the whole of industry is silly and needs to be changed.
We strongly support the increased focus from all sides of politics in recent times on technical and skills training. We think that a greater focus, which has also been brought about, on on-the-job training as a component of that is important, and our industry stands very ready to support that in whatever way we can. That is all I have to say. I am more than happy to answer any questions.
CHAIR —Thank you for that presentation. You have probably expanded a few of the questions that everyone was going to ask on that. Just for the record, according to the ABS there are 5,600 accommodation operators. You represent about 2,000 of them; is that right?
Mr Olah —About 2,000.
CHAIR —That is a pretty wide range of numbers. Is there any other organisation representing the other 3,600?
Mr Olah —To use industry parlance, most of those employers in the industry would be free riders.
CHAIR —They haven’t got time to join.
Mr Olah —There are a number of organisations with accommodation members. The Australian Hotels Association has a national accommodation division which is focused towards, again, the top end of town, if I can put it that way—five-star global chains. We work closely with the AHA on a number of issues and in fact have a number of members in common. TTF, again, is a CEO forum that has a number of the CEOs of major global chains within its membership. There are specific accommodation sectoral divisions like the Caravan and Camping Industry Association, the bed and breakfast association and the Australian Timeshare and Holiday Ownership Council. We have a servicing relationship for a number of those organisations and their membership, where they hold the membership and we provide services to that membership.
CHAIR —Rather than getting caught in any sort of turf war over peak body representations, it would be fair to say that your organisation represents a good snapshot of the Australian tourism industry?
Mr Olah —We would have part of all of it, yes.
CHAIR —As a student of statistics, in regard to your survey data—which, for colleagues who have not had a good look at it, is very interesting reading—that you and DEWR worked on together in a joint project on North Queensland, was it a fairly big sample or not?
Mr Olah —No, in fact it was a very small sample for that one. I would not even argue that it was a statistically valid sample. We put it in because it is the only data we have and it does support the word on the street, if I can put it that way.
Ms HALL —How big was the sample?
Mr Olah —I cannot give you the precise number, but it was in the region of 15 to 20.
CHAIR —I see. That is a pity, because they were extraordinarily good figures. But you say it does back the anecdotes, and I suspect it does. It says 57 per cent reported job vacancies for room attendants; 42 per cent, food and beverage staff; and food and beverage staff and room attendants tended to be the positions for which they had the greatest difficulty in recruiting staff. It kind of suited our purpose.
Mr Olah —The food and beverage, chef and cook staff data is clearly in evidence not just in our industry but across the whole hospitality and tourism sector. I am sure you have spoken to restaurants and others who would give you the same data.
CHAIR —Sure. Is part of the problem that those particular skills are not recognised as skills for migration purposes?
Mr Olah —The chef and cook stuff is, and it has been for some time, and rightly so. We have major problems with the MODL. We think it is inflexible. We believe it is far too much based on traditional trade concepts. It does not recognise the level of real-world flexibility in how people work. One of the pluses our industry offers is that people can come in and, in their first week, do everything from front desk to cleaning to kitchen and everything in between.
CHAIR —Just as a regular part of their work.
Mr Olah —Absolutely. How do you capture that in a strict, trade based occupations and demand list? The reality is that is does not capture that and is unlikely to in the current structure. Beyond that, though, there are obviously problems for us with a 457 in that, no matter how much you simplify it, small businesses that have to manage that level of administrative paperwork are unlikely to access it. So even were some of these broader occupations to come into the MODL, it is unlikely that the majority of our membership and the majority of our industry could access 457.
CHAIR —You painted the picture that unless Australia updated its approach to look beyond its borders for staff to fill these positions there were plenty of other countries that would do that, and that we would have a failure to perform, to meet people’s needs and expectations when it comes to tourism and hospitality, if we were not careful. That seems to me to be what you were saying—or maybe I am just trying to satisfy myself that that was what you were saying.
Mr Olah —That is exactly what I was saying. It comes down to this: we are labour intensive and the quality and commitment of our staff are absolutely what delivers success to our businesses. Without that, we are going to fall flat on our faces. Allied with that is the fact that we are less able than most other industry sectors in the economy to compete for existing staff, simply because of the nature of the industry—lots of small and medium players and low margins. You put that together and you clearly have a crunch coming unless something changes. Some of the things that have to change are within. We need to change our industry’s approaches—we need to take a more holistic approach—and we need to educate our entrepreneurs and managers about the environment in which they operate.
CHAIR —To be collaborative rather than always competitive maybe?
Mr Olah —The problem is that they are not truly competitive. What happens is that, especially in the motel and B&B sector where they are employers, they each do their own thing. There is no standard way of doing things; they invent it as they go along. I call it an industry dominated by retired cops and schoolteachers—people who, to use a colloquialism, have their skin in the game, are really committed and work their guts out but do not have a lot of management experience and may not be all that well linked to what is going on in the broader industry. So we certainly need to up the level of expertise and knowledge there.
But, no matter how much we do that, when you are doing 16 hours a day, starting with breakfast at 5.30 and finishing with your BAS at 11.30, the capacity to take a big, strategic viewpoint is limited. The capacity to engage in things like 457, especially when, if you look at the last year, the 457 failure rate has been very high, is problematic. Unless there are staff ready to work and committed to work right on the ground, a lot of our members are going to face problems.
Mr HAYES —I do not disagree that the industry, as you have put it, is labour intensive, but one thing that has come through pretty well throughout the course of this inquiry is the reluctance of this industry to invest in training. As a consequence, that has been cited time and time again as one of the issues contributing to the difficulty of retaining qualified people in this industry.
Mr Olah —I do not think there is any denying that. There are a number of reasons for that but I would argue that the key one is again the fragmented nature of an industry dominated by small and medium businesses. The response of many businesses in our sector to the inability to recruit is, ‘Either my advertising is wrong or I am not offering enough.’ The scope to understand that there is a bigger industry issue or a bigger issue across the economy is sometimes too—
Mr HAYES —The industry does not see itself as a conglomeration of small players. It does not see itself as an industry. We saw in North Queensland that people advocate simply an extension to backpackers because they can use them now for six months. They want to broaden that. There was no indication that they wanted to invest and train and provide career opportunities by retaining people in the industry, which leads me to think that perhaps at that end of the market they do not really see themselves as an industry.
Mr Olah —I think there is some truth in that. The key reason is that tourism by definition is not an industry defined by production; it is defined by consumption. Therefore you have an industry that, at the point at which the services are delivered, defines itself as a hotel or a restaurant or a tour operator based on the production. It does not see itself as part of what the consumer is buying in all cases.
Mr HAYES —There is only one section of the industry that probably operates slightly differently to that, and that is the Australian ski industry, which is looking to retain people on a seasonal basis who are returning, but in the industry as opposed to remaining with XYZ accommodation.
Mr Olah —Yes. The issue is that you are not going to get fragmented small operators to suddenly join hands and create a holistic career path. It is up to organisations like mine and others in the sector, working together with governments, to create that environment and make it easy to have that point of entry. I have to say the industry as a whole, certainly at the association level, historically has not done enough on that front. Part of the reason was that the industry itself did not recognise that as an issue; part of it was, and clearly still is, resourcing. We are far from being a wealthy organisation, and every new thing we do means that something we are currently doing has to stop. So our capacity to respond in a big way is limited by the access to resources.
Mr HAYES —Part of my difficulty is that the panacea is simply to extend the application of 457 visas when, clearly, the industry is not actually working globally as an industry to ensure that it is able not only to recruit but to retain people who have developed skills within the industry generally.
Mr Olah —Let me say this clearly: we do not believe there is a panacea. We believe that there are a number of approaches that have to be taken together. Whilst we do not think historically the industry has done enough to provide a clear career path or to sell the attractiveness of working in the industry, we are committed to doing more and, in fact, we are doing more as we speak. However, the industry’s capacity to respond only on that front is limited; and in an environment where we are facing potentially a generational labour and skill shortage we will be one of the first industries to hurt. In the end, the capacity to compete on things like career pathing and on price—that is, on wages and salaries—is limited compared to other industries, and even if we get it right we are still going to have problems. Our argument is that, yes, we need to do more, and we are focused on doing more, in terms of making it more attractive, upping retention and upskilling the people we have already got. But that by itself is unlikely to be successful.
Mr HAYES —In the submissions that have been made to this committee you will see there is a range of views about what has been the difficulty in attracting and retaining suitable employees or staff in the industry. But I have to say that something that does not seem to feature in any of these submissions so far is that there is a lack of flexibility in the industry. So I was taken aback a little by what you have said in your submission about Work Choices and trying to include further flexibilities, because that has been a reasonably obvious omission in submissions to date. People have not been saying that they want to have further flexibility or that there is a restriction in the way they are doing things at the moment. As a matter of fact, Work Choices per se has not featured significantly in any of the discussions so far, except in this last one today.
Mr Olah —I will put it very clearly. There are few industries more requiring flexibility, in terms of working hours and the nature of the tasks carried out, than tourism. It is an industry that is defined by multiskilling in many ways. It is defined by after-hours and weekend work in many ways. So that flexibility is vital. It is an industry that has always worked flexibly. Part of the cost, though, is that at times there has been an unacceptable level of nonadherence to award conditions in parts of the industry. What we believe is that Work Choices, because it allows flexibility to be built into agreements, will lead to a higher level of adherence then we have had historically.
Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR —You are saying that people were breaking the law before, but now Work Choices will allow them to do what they were doing before without breaking the law?
Mr Olah —Yes.
CHAIR —It brings them into a system, is what he is trying to say, Brendan.
Mr BAKER —And the reality that the working week is not Monday to Friday; it could be Wednesday to Sunday.
Mr Olah —Correct.
Mr BAKER —That is a difficulty that a lot seem to have trouble coming to terms with—that we live in a different world and a different age. Would you like to comment on that?
Mr Olah —The reality is that our industry cannot operate in an environment where people have an employment contract and award structured around Monday to Friday, nine to five. It just cannot work that way. It never has worked that way. In some states there have been great levels of flexibility in the award system. There has been a fair degree of flexibility in the federal award. However, that has not been nationally consistent.
Mr HAYES —It has not been nationally consistent, as you are suggesting, but, where they wanted flexibility, the larger operators—and bear in mind that I used to act for some of them in my former capacity—had their own individual, tailored agreements that gave those flexibilities. I am sure that the bulk of the employees in your industry, particularly in the five-star sector, do not exist on over-award payments. They exist on award or new minimum rates payments. Where is the cost cutting going to be in that respect?
Mr Olah —What needs to be recognised is that a focus on the big players in tourism will miss the overwhelming majority of this industry. Depending on which figures you accept, the tourism industry has somewhere north of 100,000 employees in it. Of those, only several hundred will be major employers in terms of multinationals or people with hundreds of employees. Well over 90 per cent are small to medium, mum-and-dad enterprises, and those are people who cannot access and cannot set up their own systems in that way. That is not just in terms of their own award; it is in terms of their own training mechanism, their own integral recruitment mechanism and their own HR functions.
Mr HAYES —But are they suggesting that some are disadvantaged now? Those people who have been represented at this inquiry so far have not made that submission to date. A lack of flexibility in employment has not been a key feature of the issues leading to the inability to attract and retain staff.
Mr Olah —As I said, and as I think we say in our submission, very few employees in our sector are going to make too many comments about Work Choices in the current environment. It is as simple as that. Why would you buy into what is clearly a very, very strong political debate and will be for the rest of this year? Our members, large and small, are focused on trying to stay afloat and make money.
Mr HAYES —Just before leaving that, this is not about the political debate.
Mr Olah —It is for our members.
Mr HAYES —Clearly I would have a personal view on that, but, really, if it were an issue, I would have thought that it would have featured more strongly in the inhibitions and all of the concerns of the various organisations—presumably many would be your members—in the way they go about recruiting and retaining staff in this industry. One of the things that come through time and time again, and from the employer perspective, is their inability or their reluctance to provide terms and conditions which are compatible to other industries, and that is leaving aside the resource sector.
Mr Olah —I have been through the submissions so let me say very clearly that I doubt that you will see any individual submissions from three-star motels, for instance, amongst your submissions. The submissions you refer to, I would assume in most cases, if they had come from an individual business, have come from a large business with the capacity to have its own integrated processes.
Mr HAYES —And peak bodies.
Mr Olah —And peak bodies. The reason I believe that Work Choices has not been mentioned is that there is a fear in the current environment that if you want to put your head up you are going to get it knocked off. Let me say very clearly that there are a number of people in my organisation who are concerned that we mentioned Work Choices in our submission.
Mr HAYES —Leave Work Choices alone, I was more concerned to see whether there was a perceived lack of flexibility or otherwise within the industry. At this stage, nobody is actually citing the lack of flexibility. Certainly they are drawing issues about labour shortage and skills shortage, depending on occupations, but they are not saying that they are restricted about how they can deploy existing employees to officially manage their businesses.
Mr Olah —I cannot comment on what is in each of the submissions. All I can comment on is what has been reported to me through surveys by some of my membership.
CHAIR —Do your members have a perception that they could be prevented from employing the staff and they would like to do it under the old arrangements because under the new arrangements they feel that they have the flexibility to have an agreement with the staff member that suits the employee and the employer?
Mr Olah —There is a belief amongst some of our members that the existing systems, prior to Work Choices, limited the flexibility in terms of coming up with a package that worked financially and operationally for the employer.
CHAIR —Now they have flexibility?
Mr Olah —Yes.
CHAIR —That is a perception, anyway. We do not want to detain the committee too long on this but we will have a couple of quick questions.
Ms HALL —At the onset of your evidence, you said that there was a labour and skills shortage. I am wondering how much influence wages and conditions have upon people being prepared to work in this industry?
Mr Olah —There is no question they have an influence. People make choices in a competitive environment where they have options based on a number of factors, and, clearly, wages and working hours are amongst those factors; no question.
Ms HALL —In your evidence and submission, you touched on the Welfare to Work reforms. You mentioned some pilot programs that are running—maybe you could share that with us. Could you include, if you are talking about single parents, the sort of back-up and childcare support that is provided—those aspects of the Welfare to Work programs—and how single parents will be able to work in an industry where there is a problem with hours.
Mr Olah —Right now we are engaged in two regional trial programs under the employer demand demonstration projects: one is in tropical North Queensland based around Cairns, and the other is Hunter and Central Coast. They are two similar but quite different projects because what we tried to do was come up with solutions for these trials.
Ms HALL —Who is providing the Hunter and Central Coast program?
Mr Olah —It is being provided by us. We have contract trainers and so on and we work closely with the Job Network providers.
Ms HALL —Which Job Network providers and whereabouts?
Mr Olah —I cannot give you—
Ms HALL —Could you provide me with that information?
Mr Olah —I am more than happy to give you the details; I will email you that this afternoon.
Ms HALL —That would be wonderful.
Mr Olah —We are working with five or six different Job Network providers and, similarly, a number of Job Network providers and one job placement organisation in North Queensland. At this stage, because they are trials, they do not include the full range of features that we would anticipate building into a state or national program—and that is where we hope to take it. I cannot give you an answer on things like child care and so on because that is not part of this initial trial phase. It is about taking people from a number of target groups such as long-term unemployed, unemployed single mothers, Indigenous and people with disabilities, and identifying skills gaps in the sector and training people to fill those gaps. We are at the stage of having passed through the first training group in Hunter and Central Coast, and early this week we started making our first placements into the industry from that group.
Ms HALL —And how successful have they been?
Mr Olah —It is too early to tell.
Ms HALL —Finally, you mentioned in your submission that a whole-of-government leadership through COAG would be a good national approach to take. Have you got any further thoughts on that?
Mr Olah —In which particular aspect? I mentioned COAG in a number of areas.
Ms HALL —In relation to the tourism sector as a whole.
Mr Olah —One of the difficulties we face is that the people in our industry work in a national and a global industry, yet they face a regulatory regime that is quite different in each state. That adds both cost and inefficiency into the process. It is very difficult as a motel manager, for instance, to move from state to state because, despite efforts historically, the innkeepers and licensing legislation and regulation in each state remains quite different.
Ms HALL —So are you calling for uniform legislation?
Mr Olah —Absolutely.
Ms HALL —Good.
CHAIR —Thank you very much for your time. We are looking forward to the COAG process because, if you are trained to pull a beer on the Gold Coast, you should be able to pull it at the Twin Towns Services Club without undergoing further training. We very much appreciate your attendance here.