Thursday, 4 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Payne. The Morrison government will end JobKeeper in 52 days, and 60 per cent of tourism businesses will go bust unless the Morrison government provides a lifeline. How many tourism jobs across Australia will be lost when the Morrison government turns off JobKeeper in March?
I thank Senator Polley for her question. As I have previously advised the chamber, what the government has done through a very, very difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic is to provide record levels of economic support through a range of programs—JobKeeper, in particular, and cash payments of up to $100,000 for small businesses. The outcomes of those payments have been to enable and sustain hundreds of thousands of tourism businesses across Australia and the jobs associated with them and as part of our plan to support tourism recovery, as I've also previously advised the chamber.
Order! There may be scooting, but I'll make that observation. I do allow opposition senators to occasionally restate questions, but I am going to draw the line at commentary before the restating, if it comes. Senator Polley, I'll ask you to come to your point of order—I got it to direct relevance and scooting.
It's about relevance. The Morrison government is ending JobKeeper in 52 days, and 60 per cent of tourism businesses are going to go bust. So how many jobs, Minister, are going to be lost—are you going to abandon—with your action by cutting JobKeeper?
Senator Polley, this is not an opportunity to add to the question. I'm listening to the minister carefully. In my view, if the minister is talking about support programs to the same sector very narrowly, as she is, I can't ask her in what terms to address the question, but I think she is talking about both employment and support programs to that sector. I will continue to listen carefully. I have allowed you to reemphasise your question, Senator Polley. Senator Payne.
Thank you very much, Mr President. Before Senator Polley took her point of order I was going to remind the chamber about the government's approach in this vital sector, which we absolutely acknowledge. In fact, my state of New South Wales has dealt consequentially not just with bushfires but with floods and then with pandemic issues which have clearly impacted the tourism industry; I cite the beautiful area of the Blue Mountains in particular. We're very focused on specific programs to support jobs and businesses in those areas and to support the maintenance and retention of those jobs in those areas. So the Recovery for Regional Tourism Fund is about boosting tourism in nine regions which are heavily reliant on international tourism but, of course, which welcome domestic tourism as well. I have even been through the details of the applications for those programs in my previous answers.
I was going to say earlier to Senator Green, but, sadly, ran out of time, that under our Building Better Regions Fund we have earmarked $100 million of specific funding for tourism infrastructure to assist those regions to boost the supply of new, quality tourism infrastructure, to drive visitation and to maintain jobs in the tourism industry in those regions. We are also providing $100 million—
I was about to say something similar. If the minister is talking about employment in the sector and your question was about jobs in the sector, I can't direct the minister in the terms in which to answer the question. You can debate it after question time. The minister is being directly relevant and I think she had five seconds left to answer—or are we going to go to the supplementary question, Senator Polley? The supplementary.
I will take on notice the detail of the specific funding delivery to Tasmania, of course. But, in fact, Senator Polley has pointed to exactly one of the examples that I have used consistently this week in my answers to previous questions on this matter—and not just that program but the Building Better Regions Fund and $100 million for the Regional Recovery Partnerships program. That is about coordinating that investment with other levels of government—local and state—to support both growth and recovery, and to protect jobs, including in tourism, in 10 priority regions.
We have also, through the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund, included tourism-specific measures. For example, the Supporting Australia's Exhibiting Zoos and Aquariums Program—$94½ million for that program. There is the Australian Business Events Program, supported with $50 million of Commonwealth funding. And, of course, there are many programs for the arts sector, which I understand to be important in culturally rich Tasmania.
Why is Mr Morrison cutting JobKeeper and cutting wages but prioritising taxpayer funded government advertising, sports rorts and flying his ex-minister around Europe, with a private doctor, to get a plum post-politics pay cheque?
Creativity and ingenuity in the opposition have decreased to such an extent that they are unable to provide a second supplementary question to senators, other than one that repeats the previous supplementary question! Notwithstanding that enormous challenge that those opposite are facing, let me say—
Senator Polley, I've made this point before. The question contained a number of loaded political phrases. The minister was, I would imagine, making a glancing observation and is entitled to some very wide latitude to address the terms, assertions and imputations in the question. Senator Payne, I call you to continue with the question.
Thanks very much, Mr President, because, of course, I was specifically addressing the wording of Senator Polley's question and specifically pointing out to Senator Polley that what we have identified this week in the chamber is a number of programs with very specific tourism focus which are separate from JobKeeper, which are separate from the political questions they are asking in that context and which are about protecting and maintaining jobs in tourism.