‘Help us’: Thousands potentially out of work if JobKeeper axed

 

DESPERATE Far North tourism leaders and operators are standing on a cliff edge and fear thousands of people will be left out of work within weeks if the federal government does not extend the JobKeeper program.

The March deadline for the COVID payments looms large for the local industry whose business completely dried up with the closure of international and state borders.

With February and March already traditionally quiet in the region, the situation has become "dire" according to Tourism Tropical North Queensland chairman Ken Chapman.

He said the Far North was the most dependent on international visitors in Australia and with no real time frame for when they may return, there needed to be further assistance.

Tourism businesses like Sunlover Cruises are concerned what will happen to workers like dive instructor Ken Cho, photographer Pablo Cogollos and cruise attendant Nikki Lowmass once the payments cease. Picture: Brendan Radke
Tourism businesses like Sunlover Cruises are concerned what will happen to workers like dive instructor Ken Cho, photographer Pablo Cogollos and cruise attendant Nikki Lowmass once the payments cease. Picture: Brendan Radke

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"For this region it's not over," he said.

"If there is a sudden and precipitative stop, things are going to get really tough.

"I think across the region it will probably be thousands, definitely hundreds, (who will lose their jobs) and I certainly call on the federal government to extend it."

Cairns has previously been confirmed as having the highest number of JobKeeper applications in Queensland.

The current threshold for a business to be eligible for JobKeeper was a drop in revenue of at least 30 per cent.

Mr Chapman said the figure was likely closer to 70 per cent for most Far North tourism operators and suggested the program could continue with a higher threshold.

"This has been inflicted upon us," he said.

Sunlover general manager Greg Erwin said they would be "delighted" if their losses were just 30 per cent.

Chairman for Tourism Tropical North Queensland Ken Chapman.
Chairman for Tourism Tropical North Queensland Ken Chapman.

He said they currently had 50 employees on JobKeeper which had been a "saviour" to the local tourism industry.

"Our position is whenever there is government-enforced restrictions in place, for example border closures, industries require some assistance," Mr Erwin said.

"You can't close down a market and not provide some kind of support.

"You're effectively limiting our ability to run our business."

Blazing Saddles operator Michael Trout said they remained closed but had eight staff on JobKeeper to take care of the horses and the property.

"It's going to be devastating when JobKeeper stops up here," he said.

Mr Trout said businesses were also facing other costs with the initial grace period offered by banks now over and mortgage and interest payments resuming.

Mr Trout said they had budgeted to reopen at Easter, but that time frame remained up in the air depending on when international borders reopen.

Originally published as 'Help us': Thousands potentially out of work if JobKeeper axed


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