Wednesday, 24 February 2021
JobKeeper Payment: Tourism Industry
The government needs to come clean and be honest with Australians about the grim reality that they—businesses, households, individual workers—are about to face. The JobKeeper subsidy ends on 28 March, and, while there are a number of businesses and industries who are now back on their feet, the grim reality is that, for thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of workers, particularly in tourism, there is no end to the economic woe in sight.
I'm sure the Prime Minister has heard calls from the industry about their need for ongoing support, but he's not listening. We welcome the fact that, for many sectors, the economic recovery appears to be underway. More jobs are coming back, more lights are on in businesses. We are concerned that the underemployment rate is still too high. We are concerned that the underemployment rate masks the true picture of where Australian households are at.
The Prime Minister is out of touch and doesn't realise how tough it really is for many tourism businesses and their workforces. They need to respond to the looming crisis. The government needs to consider carefully its response to the COVID-19 pandemic in regional areas, particularly areas that I and the member for Cunningham and the member for Gilmore represent that have had bushfires and then the pandemic smashing their industries. In the Illawarra and Southern Highlands, total visitor expenditure pre-pandemic, pre-bushfires was around about $300 million per annum—lost. That's a huge hit to the local economy. The benefits from tourism in particular flow onto every other sector in the community—$300 million going through the tills of tourism operators flows through to other sectors.
Just last week the Illawarra Mercury put a human face on a business that is affected by the imminent closure of JobKeeper with no pick-up in business. It talked about the story of Leisure Coast Limousine Services, who have lost two-thirds of their business since the start of the pandemic. The business has gone from 32 drivers to 23 drivers, who are all casuals. They describe JobKeeper as the lifeline for the business. However, come 28 March, operator Mark Horsley, the co-owner of Leisure Coast Limousine Services, said that they would need to lay off his own son, who works as a mechanic in the business, and many of the other staff because business is simply not picking up. It's not their fault. They've attempted to diversify into other sectors, but the business simply is not there. I've focused on tourism, but the story can be retold in many other areas and many other sectors. The government needs to listen and act. We can't pull the rug out from under these people's feet.