Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Income Support Payments
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Payne. Businesses in Far North Queensland have made it clear to both the Morrison government and the opposition that JobKeeper is keeping businesses solvent and, with its withdrawal, jobs will go. The CEO of Skyrail, Ken Chapman, said of job losses: 'Across the region, it will probably be thousands, definitely hundreds.' Why won't Mr Morrison be upfront with these businesses about what ongoing support will be available at the end of March?
It's a matter, of course, that Senator Green has raised in the chamber previously and I'm pleased to add to those responses I have provided in that context. In the last couple of weeks the tourism minister has had the opportunity—in fact, since his appointment, of course—to meet with many tourism operators, many peak bodies, to understand the impacts of the pandemic and what pathways to recovery might look like. Specifically in relation to Queensland, most recently the minister was able to visit regional Queensland. He participated in a series of roundtables and he met with tourism operators with small businesses, with representatives of local industry. One of the reasons for that is because members and senators of this side of the parliament believe it is important to meet directly with those business representatives and to hear that feedback in person.
For example, the minister held roundtables with exporters and with the tourism and aviation sector, which were hosted by Tourism Tropical North Queensland. He met with the CEO of the Star, with theme park CEOs on the Gold Coast as well and he participated in another meeting with Gold Coast tourism stakeholders. So he has had the opportunity to hear directly from those local tourist operators to understand how state border closures and the loss of international tourists particularly are impacting them. I think the minister has found that experience very valuable in terms of working so closely not only with the tourism sector in Queensland but also across Australia on a post-JobKeeper plan for tourism recovery.
As a result of those discussions and many other engagements, the government is very conscious that JobKeeper has supported a large portion of the tourism industry. And, in fact, I myself have heard the positive feedback from many operators about that support. (Time expired)
Tourism operators in Far North Queensland are crying out for certainty from this government, fearful for their jobs and livelihoods. When will the Morrison government make an announcement about what support will be available when JobKeeper ends?
As I was saying in my remarks in the earlier response, the government are very conscious that JobKeeper has supported a large portion of the tourism industry and so we are considering how best to support economic recovery in the tourism sector when JobKeeper does conclude at the end of March this year. I would, however, also remind the chamber though that, as I have said previously, we have provided in the process of the response to the pandemic and in the 2020-21 budget a strong plan of support for the industry. That includes the $50 million for the Recovery for Regional Tourism Fund to boost tourism in nine regions—
My point of order is on relevance. The question was very directly about when the Morrison government will make an announcement about support when JobKeeper ends. It's an incredibly important date for these businesses that need certainty now.
Senator Green, I have allowed you to make the point of the second part of your question. The minister is entitled to be directly relevant to any part of the question but minister is talking about the first part of the question and that is also directly relevant. Senator Payne.
That's alright, Mr President. Let me say in response to the point of order that I did respond to that part of Senator Green's question when I commenced my answer. I did respond to that. (Time expired)
As the senator has mentioned, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment claimed that he was in Queensland last week to gather the information that he needs to target support to the industry. We already know that the sector is losing billions of dollars a month and haemorrhaging jobs. How much more information does the minister need?
I can only imagine that, if the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment did not meet directly with tourism representatives in North Queensland, on the Gold Coast, in other parts of the state represented by Senator Green and in other parts of Australia, those opposite would say he was negligent and that he was failing in his obligations to the sector. The minister takes those very seriously.
We absolutely understand the pressure and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism in this country. We understand, and our response reflects that. Whether it is the Recovery for Regional Tourism Fund, whether it is the Building Better Regions Fund, whether it is the Regional Recovery Partnerships fund, whether it is the Business Events Grants program or whether it is the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program, all of these initiatives are directed at supporting this vital sector which has struggled— (Time expired)