Why Premier is right to ask PM for assistance
Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan insists he's itching to get back to Magnetic Island with his family.
"My grandparents went for their honeymoon on Magnetic Island, off Townsville, nearly 100 years ago," Tehan said this week.
"And ever since then, the family have been travelling, every winter, the family heads up there to holiday, uncles, aunts, you name it.
"And it's a wonderful destination, and, you know, I'm incredibly fond of Magnetic Island because of that."
Yet if Tehan and the rest of the Federal Government don't stop their recalcitrance about further support for Queensland tourism, there may not be much of an industry left to visit on Magnetic or at many of the Sunshine State's other idyllic destinations.
For the past week, Tehan and his counterparts in the NSW Government have been hopping into Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for having the temerity to suggest federal support schemes such as JobKeeper may have to be extended beyond March to ensure many Queensland tourism operators remain afloat.
They've blamed Palaszczuk's approach to border closures for the industry's plight and suggested simply opening the door to domestic visitors will ensure Queensland's tourism industry bounces back.
Is it the federal government's role to bail out Qld's tourism industry?
This poll ended on 28 February 2021.
Yes, the buck stops with the Prime Minister
No, the Premier has brought this on herself
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
"Queensland, closed one day, asking someone else to pick up the tab the next," NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet quipped.
That's a bit rich from Perrottet, considering he's overseeing a budget where gross debt is heading towards $200 billion and 170 per cent of revenue, far more than Queensland's current figures.
"New South Wales, open one day, asking future generations to pick up the tab the next" should be his motto.
The fact is that it's utter bunkum for Tehan, Perrottet and others to insinuate that Queensland's tourism operators can survive off what they eke from the domestic market. If JobKeeper is completely removed while Australia's international borders remain closed, many businesses simply won't survive.
Most at risk are ventures geared to international tourists.
They cannot just "pivot" to the domestic market. Think souvenir stores, duty-free outlets and backpackers accommodation.
They'll be others also, like theme park attractions and boat operators, who cannot get the scale required from Australians holidaying at home to turn a profit.
Once these businesses are gone they won't be back in a hurry and that will damage the tourism offering of these destinations for years to come.
The most extreme example of this is far north Queensland where there are an estimated 10,000 businesses with employees on JobKeeper.
In Cairns, 36 per cent of the tourism dollars the city brought in during 2019 was from international visitors, who were predominantly from China, Japan and the US.
According to the latest Tourism and Events Queensland statistics, international expenditure was down almost 60 per cent over the year to September, which includes almost six months when Australia's borders were open.
Tourism operators in Brisbane (-45.8 per cent), the Gold Coast (-53.6 per cent) and the Whitsundays (-47 per cent) face a similar plight.
The return of the Tehan family to Magnetic Island and other Australians attracted to Queensland by the Federal Government's new $5 million marketing campaign might help restore the $1 billion a month in domestic tourism dollars that been missing from the market.
Yes, a more consistent approach to the border by the State Government will help give people confidence that they can confidently book a Queensland getaway.
But that will never replace the multibillion-dollar hole in the international tourism market.
When Australia's borders might reopen is still anyone's guess.
Much depends on the effectiveness of vaccines, specifically whether evidence emerges that they not only stop people getting severely sick from COVID-19, but prevent the virus from being transmitted.
"If it indeed does stop transmission between people, then that could be quite be a game-changer, but that will not be evident for some time yet," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this week.
Clearly, that evidence is not going to emerge before March when JobKeeper is removed and businesses start having to pay for their own staff.
Many industries might have already been weaned off the supplement and returned to operating under near normal conditions.
But for Queensland tourism operators who survive off the dollars of international visitors, the months between JobKeeper ending and their market returning will be dire.
Surely the price of a temporary extension specifically aimed at international tourism destinations would be much less than the long-term cost of kicking back on a tropical island and allowing businesses to collapse.
Originally published as Why Premier is right to ask PM for assistance