Second wave fears: JobKeeper extension must be considered
VICTORIA'S second wave of COVID-19 cases and the ongoing lockdown of international borders shows the federal government must seriously consider extending JobKeeper and protecting thousands of Queensland tourism and travel businesses.
Tourism, a pillar of the state's economy already battered by the pandemic, is unlikely to recover to anywhere near pre-COVID-19 levels before the Commonwealth's life-saving JobKeeper program ends on September 27.
Border barricades are returning, a trans-Tasman travel agreement could be months away and cash-strapped consumers aren't booking holidays.
It means the federal government must look at offering new financial support to sections of the tourism industry when the JobKeeper tap is turned off in 80 days.
Operators are using the $1500 fortnightly payment to keep workers employed and ensure their business can reopen quickly when travel demand returns. Any sudden removal of the JobKeeper life- support in an industry which is likely to face years of hardship would send many tourism businesses straight to the wall.
Queensland's largest tourism business, Flight Centre Travel Group, is a haunting case study into the effect of COVID-19 on the sector. Its Managing Director, Graham "Skroo" Turner, has revealed 14,000 of his 20,000 staff are likely to remain stood down for years.
Mr Turner, one of Queensland's best business success stories, predicts international travel won't return to normal until the start of the 2023 financial year.
If Flight Centre - which had a market capitalisation of $4.4b before COVID-19 that has now been slashed by half - could be hit so hard by this pandemic, spare a thought for the hundreds of smaller operators without the liquidity to survive long term.
The federal government's swift response to this cataclysmic pandemic was admirable, but the looming removal of widespread economic support must be replaced by a tailored and responsible package to keep tourism businesses open and their workers employed.
JobKeeper, which is costing the economy about $10b each month, must be focused on industries heavily dependent on international travel.
From the coast to Cairns, operators believe that if they can hold on long enough consumers' pent-up demand to travel will again see their industry flourish.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has already hinted at "another phase" of income support when he hands down the nation's economic and fiscal update later this month.
While his instant asset write-off and tax instalment indexation freeze will help, it's vital to keep pumping cash directly into the pockets of tourism workers.
Flight Centre's revelation that thousands of workers will stay stood down is another blow to the industry just a fortnight after Qantas announced similar, disturbingly bad news.
Qantas, an accurate yardstick to measure the health of the travel industry, will keep 15,000 workers at home and 12 massive long-haul A380s grounded for months.
It's widely believed the reopening of Australia's international borders is the tourism industry's golden ticket to recovery.
Until then it's up to the federal government to help these critical businesses survive.
HISTORIC DAY FOR QUEENSLAND
NOTWITHSTANDING the continuing hardships ahead for our tourism and travel industries, today is a historic day for the people of Queensland.
The border is open. And while our hearts go out to the people of Victoria, we look forward to welcoming Aussies from across our great nation.
And Queenslanders who have been waiting to visit family and friends interstate are now free to do so, without having to serve a two-week quarantine on their return.
Those long-delayed hugs will be all the sweeter after everything we have all been through.
While we believe Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk could have opened the border once community transition had been brought under control in NSW, she is to be commended for her swift action in denying entry to Victorians. Hopefully, we will all be together soon.
Originally published as Second wave fears: JobKeeper extension must be considered