House debates

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Questions without Notice

Tasmania: COVID-19

2:28 pm

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, Tasmania is very fortunate to be safe and not locked down. The problem is that half the country is locked out, which is causing big problems for businesses reliant on visitors from Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT. No wonder sectors like tourism, hospitality, the arts and transport are being hit hard. It's no wonder airport workers are being laid off, tumbleweeds blow through Salamanca Market and publicans are working second jobs to pay staff. Prime Minister, some federal government help has been forthcoming, but it's not enough. Will your government provide increased targeted support to businesses in Tasmania, similar to what is being provided to other jurisdictions?

2:29 pm

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for the question. The Treasurer will add further to the answer, as he has done a sensational job working with all state Treasurers to ensure we're delivering record levels of support, including in states that have not had to go through the significant lockdowns that we've seen in New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria and, from time to time, Queensland and South Australia. Indeed, Tasmania has done an outstanding job. I commend Premier Gutwein for the great job he's been doing with his government throughout the COVID pandemic. I'm pleased to advise the House that he's in much better health and will be returning to work soon—I understand he may even be there already, from my engagement with him over the last few days. I thank members for their interest and concern in the Premier's wellbeing.

The most important thing that can happen in Tasmania to ensure tourism businesses, orchards and other agricultural producers can access the workers that they need to progress their businesses, and for hospitality venues to get their staff back and all of those things, is support for the national plan. I want to thank Premier Gutwein for his support of the national plan, despite there being very low levels of COVID—virtually no levels of COVID—in Tasmania. He's been so supportive of the national plan. He's been particularly supportive because in Tasmania 60.9 per cent of Tasmanians have had a first dose of the vaccine and 43.7 per cent of Tasmanians have had a second dose. That is in a state that has got such a low level of COVID. There have been issues with hesitancy in states that have had low levels of COVID, where they feel perhaps the virus may not come to them or communities that are remote. But the fact is that in Tasmania they've been rolling up their sleeves. They've been doing a terrific job in ensuring that their vaccination program has maintained the pace and strength that it has. I will ask the Treasurer to add further.

2:31 pm

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for his question. He knows that the Morrison government has stood by the people of Tasmania since day one of this pandemic. Indeed, more than $2.8 billion has gone from the federal government to the people of Tasmania, helping to drive their unemployment rate down to 4.5 per cent today. We have partnered with the Gutwein government on a specific plan to support businesses in Tasmania with grants of up to $10,000. I can confirm to the House that already 400 businesses in Tasmania across a range of sectors have received those grants of up to $10,000.

Of course, in the budget this year we forecast that there would continue to be challenging times across states and territories, like in Tasmania, as we seek to recover from COVID. That's why we put in place in the budget a range of measures, whether it was the tax relief—we saw nearly $4 billion in the June quarter go to Australian households, including those in Tasmania—our infrastructure projects or a range of other support measures.