There are 12 local jobs right here that wouldn’t exist without the LAFHA

Just over five years ago, I had an unexpected phone call.

How did I fancy moving to a country I’d never visited, to edit a magazine I’d never heard of, for less than half the money I’d just been earning in Dubai?

Fair to say, a move to Australia had not been my plan at the time. But, Sydney had looked good on the Olympics, and B&T magazine sounded like an interesting challenge.

But on paper, it just didn’t make sense. It was a lot less than I could earn in the UK, where I had just returned after my Middle East stint.

But then, over a couple more calls, B&T’s publisher explained to me LAFHA, the Living Away From Home Allowance. Effectively while I was on the four year 457 business visa, my rent could be tax free. This is the perk that Wayne Swan announced yesterday he’ll be axing.

It was just enough to get me across the line, so I decided to give it a go. We relaunched the magazine and I created an awards event that helped put the title on a sounder financial footing. (I hope to see you at this year’s event on Friday night – it’s always a good bash.)

I then helped start Mumbrella three years ago. Initially I was the only member of staff.

Today we employ eight Australians, one Kiwi and three Brits (myself included).

If LAFHA did not exist, then that’s 12 local jobs that never would have been created, as I wouldn’t have been here to help create them. And of course, that’s just a tiny example compared to the growth that some big agencies have had under leadership that came from outside Australia. All creating local jobs along the way.

Sometimes when I explain the LAFHA to Aussie friends, they’re outraged. Bad enough that the Brits are taking their jobs, but they’re getting tax perks on their rent too? Outrageous and unfair. Except of course, it’s a tool used, particularly in our industry, as a means of hiring experienced people you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford into roles where there just isn’t enough local talent.

There is, I would argue, a lot to be said for changing the rules. For instance, limiting the length of time the LAFHA could be claimed for, so that once people have chosen to make a life here, everyone is on an even playing field.

But getting rid of it altogether – do you know anybody who currently finds it easy to recruit good, experienced staff? This is going to make it even tougher.

Tim Burrowes


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