Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Hotham Electorate: Travel Agencies
I rise today to speak on behalf of the many travel agency operators and their employees and their families who live in my electorate of Hotham. I was lucky, a few weeks ago that a group of people who work in this critical industry took the time to sit down with me—over Zoom, of course, as we're in Victoria—and have a really good conversation about what's happening to them and their businesses. We're hearing a lot of rhetoric in the parliament at the moment coming from the government about how great things are looking and how Australia's staging an economic comeback. But I really want to remind the House that, for tourism operators and for people whose business is fundamentally about international travel, absolutely nothing has changed for them. Their business basically got shut down overnight months and months ago, and they're still exactly where they were back then. I have to tell you, Deputy Speaker, that the amazing people who I talked to are absolutely distraught. The term that kept coming up in the Zoom conversation I had with them was 'soul-destroying'. That's the experience that they have every day when they go to work. And it's not just the operators in my electorate; in the month of August alone, Australia's tourism industry lost $3.3 billion—in a month. Tourism Research Australia has revealed that, since the start of the year, $31.2 billion in domestic tourism has evaporated and $45.4 billion in international tourism has evaporated.
Faced as we are with this unprecedented set of circumstances, what Labor has been calling for for a long time is a set of specific industry supports for this industry. What they face is genuinely so unique. We had an announcement from the government yesterday on this. I just could not believe it when I read what's being offered to them. It is woefully inadequate. It's embarrassing. I feel embarrassed to write to the people in my community who have spent their lives building businesses. The minimum amount available under this scheme is $1,500 an operator. That's not even half a family holiday. I'm really distressed about this, because this is something that Labor has been calling for for a long time, and it's simply not adequate.
I think something that we should probably agree across the chamber here is that we actually want to finish the COVID crisis with a tourism industry of some description that we can rebuild on. That's really the point of having a specific, comprehensive and workable package. That's unfortunately just not what we saw. So I want my operators to know how hard I'll be fighting for them and will continue to fight for them on this really critical issue. We need better and more professional action from the government.