Shearing body in push for UK’s visa scheme

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
WA Shearing Industry Association president Darren Spencer.
Camera IconWA Shearing Industry Association president Darren Spencer. Credit: Countryman, Cally Dupe

WA’s peak shearing body is urging the Federal Government to adopt a new visa scheme allowing United Kingdom shearers to work in Australia, saying it would fill a “critical labour shortage”.

WA Shearing Industry Association has spoken to Federal Immigration Minister David Coleman requesting UK shearers be allowed to work in Australia for three months a year, even if they have finished their two-year working holiday visa.

While UK shearers can join shed teams in Australia on a working holiday visa, they are not able to return once their visa has expired.

WASIA president Darren Spencer said a three-month visa would fill a valuable gap in the labour market.

“It wouldn’t detract from our workers getting a stand ... if you are a WA shearer, you can just about work all year,” he said.

“Bringing these shearers over from the UK would lift the standard of shearers in WA by giving us a bigger pool of shearers.

We chose England because Australia has a three-month visa arrangement to go to the UK, so we would like a reciprocal arrangement.”

New Zealanders have traditionally made up the bulk of Australia’s international shearing workforce.

But a 25 per cent pay increase for the Kiwi nation’s shearers have Australian shearing managers wondering whether it will affect the pool

Mr Spencer said WASIA had spoken with WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, who directed the group to Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

The group is now working with O’Connor MP Rick Wilson to bring the proposal to Mr Coleman’s attention.

Mr Wilson said he supported the proposal to have a reciprocal arrangement with the UK and had written to Minister Coleman.

WAFarmers livestock council president Steve McGuire agreed WA needed to expand its contractor base further than New Zealand.

“WA’s fall in sheep numbers has really masked the fall in shearers,” he said.

“There is a lack of young people coming into the industry. We can’t rely on New Zealand forever.

“There are not a huge amount of young people entering shearing in New Zealand either.”

Mr Spencer said the new visa would be separate to a new visa scheme for farm workers currently being finalised by the Federal Government.

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