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The Project host Tommy Little has called out Scott Morrison for his treatment of overseas visitors earlier in the Covid pandemic as newly-reopened hospitality venues struggle to find staff.
In April 2020, the prime minister told international visa holders such as students and backpackers to leave the country so economic support could be focused on Australians and Australian residents only.
Now, over a year and a half later, cafes and restaurant owners who are finally returning to normal operations are finding themselves understaffed and out of pocket.
Where many roles were once filled by international travellers, employers are now forced to turn to a smaller pool of local workers — who are demanding higher pay — to fill an estimated 100,000 vacancies.
That, coupled with supplier price increases, has seen hospitality venues increase the price of food and drinks which will, in turn, be passed on to punters.
Tommy was quick to point out that more care should have been taken to avoid such a situation in the first place.
"We're starting to realise there are a lot of people that did a lot of work in our society that went under-appreciated for a long time," he said.
"So many international students, international friends, basically, when the pandemic happened, we brushed our hands and went, 'Oh, well, see you'.
"Now we're surprised we don't have the hospitality staff.
"We're surprised we don't have people working in hairdressers sweeping up hair and everyone goes, 'Oh, I think we should have been more careful'."
Carrie Bickmore responded by saying that she thinks that diners would be willing to pay more 'if they can,' but not everyone is in a financial situation to do so.
Waleed Aly then pointed out that the price increases could kick start a harmful cycle where customers choose to eat out less, thereby driving prices up even further.
'This problem will continue'
In the video package, Wes Lambert from the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association said that he's seen prices increase by 10 to 20 percent. He said that this was 'directly related to the workforce shortage and the competitive nature of offering staff more money to take the positions'.
Lambert pointed a finger directly at Australia's closed borders, which will likely remain shut to international visitors until February 2022.
"As long as international borders remain shut this problem will continue in every town and city across the country," he said.
Carrie said the hospitality industry will be bracing for a 'summer of pain' which they'll have to pass onto customers
In April 2020, Scott Morrison told the 500,000 or so international students in Australia to return to their home countries, unless they were working in a critical sector such as nurses and doctors.
"Australia must focus on its citizens and its residents to ensure that we can maximise the economic supports that we have.
"But our focus and our priority is on supporting Australians and Australian residents with the economic supports that are available.
"As much as it's lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this, if you are a visitor in this country, it is time … to make your way home."
At the time, international students did not have access to the Federal Government's JobSeeker payment and many had lost their casual or part-time jobs due to Covid-mandated business closures.
The latest government figures for November show there are currently 259,752 student visa holders in Australia.
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