Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has unveiled one of the most important budgets in Australia’s history as it stares down a recession the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a generation.
“Our cherished lifestyle has been put on hold,” Frydenberg said, with the government warning that social distancing restrictions and a ban on international travel will remain in place until a vaccine is found, which it estimates being at the end of 2021.
“We will get through this together … The Great Depression and two World Wars did not bring Australia to its knees, neither will COVID-19.”
The budget included more than $500 billion in tax cuts, wage subsidies and other payments in addition to the previously announced $250 million Regional Tourism Recovery Package, which Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham says will encourage domestic travel and make up for the shortfall caused by the lack of international visitors.
Tourism Australia will also receive $231.6 million for marketing to help push the message.
“As we shift to the next phase of our tourism recovery plan, new Budget measures will further support the sector and jobs by stimulating domestic visitation to our tourism regions and encouraging domestic business travel,” Birmingham said.
The damage to the tourism sector has been highlighted by the latest snapshot by Tourism Research Australia, which showed tourism has seen overall losses of $33.7 billion for January to June 2020.
Of this, over half (53 per cent) has been lost on international tourism, with fewer than 10,000 international visitors arriving in Australia in the June quarter, compared with 1.9 million during the same period in 2019.
The Australian Tourism Industry Council’s executive director, Simon Westaway, said the figures highlight the depth of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
“These are naturally terrible results as Australian tourism faced the then full-frontal assault of the first COVID-19 wave that swept the country,” he said.
“The effective shutdown of our international visitor market and the host of state and territory border closures translated into incredibly dramatic slumps in visitor movement and spend.
“These tourism visitors and spend figures are now the benchmark for sustained government funding support and to develop more partnerships with our industry and tourism regions.”
The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) welcomed the budget, saying it offered much needed for the tourism sector.
“ATEC is pleased to see a number of measures outlined in today’s budget which will provide support across the economy and for regional tourism businesses specifically, plus some welcome additional funding for Tourism Australia,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said.
“What the tourism industry needs right now is support for businesses to get back on their feet and, where they are reliant on international borders being open, support to hang in there.
Shelley said tourism businesses would welcome measures including regional capability funding, small business supports, tax breaks and the extra funding for Tourism Australia to help market Australia to the world when international borders reopen.
“As representatives of the inbound tourism sector, we are fully aware of the pressure being faced by businesses which have focused their efforts on attracting international visitors and how international and domestic travel bans have affected the industry in its entirety,” he said.
“With many of our supply chain businesses currently in hibernation we specifically welcome the tax loss carry back initiative which will help to stem some of the flow of loss to businesses and support them through to the other side.”
The current timetable for JobKeeper and JobSeeker has not been changed under the new budget.