15 March 2021
There will be 1,792 businesses and 5,515 workers in Lilley affected when JobKeeper is axed in 13 days. Arguably, no-one will feel the impacts of this more than our aviation and tourism workers. The 6,600 aviation workers in my electorate feel like a dark cloud is coming in over the airport and the federal government is taking away their umbrella. They know that, while international borders remain close for the foreseeable future, their employment is precarious. They know they could be tapped on the shoulder at any time and told that they are being made redundant—just like thousands of their former colleagues.
What's the federal government solution to the impending storm? Half-price holidays to13 specific locations across Australia. Honestly, it is like taking the cast off a broken arm before it is healed and slapping a bandaid on it. Once again, this support is being given without any guarantee that employers will use the corporate wealth that they are receiving to retain their employees. According to the Tourism and Transport Forum, 300,000 tourism jobs or more could still be lost despite the package announced by the Prime Minister. The industry already lost 506,000 full-time jobs in 2020 due to COVID.
I said back in August last year that the most important test for the Morrison government's management of this recession, and its aftermath, will be what happens to local jobs and the businesses which create them. The Prime Minister's thumbs-up photo op from the cockpit of a Qantas jet will not save jobs. Failing to provide a tourism targeted wage subsidy after ripping away JobKeeper won't save jobs. Encouraging tourism operators to take on more debt won't save jobs.
Before coming to parliament this week I scheduled an urgent roundtable discussion with northside aviation and tourism stakeholders, seeking feedback from them on the government's package announced at the end of last week. The group unanimously agree that any support for tourism and aviation is welcome but feel that JobKeeper payments are better and should be maintained until we find out whether there is enough demand for domestic travel to keep our tourism and aviation industries afloat. Nobody is saying JobKeeper should go on forever, but surely we could have kept it open until at least the end of April to see if the half-price holidays package has the effect that the government seeks.
The northside stakeholders I spoke to were also mystified as to why Brisbane had been excluded from the list of tourism destinations and why intrastate travel within Queensland has been excluded. It is bizarre that they will not give Queenslanders the opportunity to support fellow Queenslanders; it is what we do best. Excluding intrastate travel in Queensland not only excludes Queenslanders from travelling around our beautiful state but also means interstate travellers can't stop off in Brisbane for a few days before continuing their travel up north. Tangalooma Island Resort, just off the coast of Lilley, has experienced an 80 per cent decrease in day-cruise bookings. With JobKeeper ending, they desperately need ongoing support.
The estimated COVID debt by 2030 is going to be, roughly, $2.7 trillion. But, apparently, including Brisbane as a tourism destination in the package would have been the straw that broke the camel's back. With 32 per cent of Queensland's tourism concentrated in Brisbane, adding Brisbane to the list would be a great investment to stimulate a massive boost to our hospitality, retail and tourism business owners who are still desperate for business. The International Olympic Committee has recognised Brisbane as a tourism hotspot, so why can't our federal government? I am ready to work with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to make sure Queenslanders get their fair share. I requested a meeting with the Treasurer. I am yet to hear anything. It's not too late to strengthen this package. We have already seen it done, since it was announced, with the addition of Adelaide and Darwin to the tourism destination list.
We can still extend JobKeeper for another month or so, to make sure there is sufficient demand to bolster the tourism and aviation industry. We can add Brisbane to the tourism destination list and open up eligibility to include intrastate travel within Queensland. Let's do it this week. Let's do it before JobKeeper ends and before this package is rolled out.