Government eyes new economic stimulus for tourism industry

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham does not want borders closed a day longer than necessary.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is considering a second economic stimulus package for small businesses as the coronavirus pandemic threatens the tourism, hospitality and services sectors.

Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will sit down to draw up extra economic measures to support those industries most at risk from the sharp downturns in overseas and domestic visitors.

The rescue package is expected to be finalised this week. The proposal was first brought up with state and territory leaders on Sunday and comes after warnings of an “exponential” rise in the number of coronavirus infections.

Australia could see between 40,000 and 80,000 cases a day by August, with estimates as high as 300,000 cases a day by July if the disease is allowed to spread “unmitigated”, according to government modelling.

Tourism and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the tourism and aviation industries were among those being hit the hardest at present.

“There is no doubt that job losses are occurring already and, sadly, will continue to occur,” Birmingham said.

Birmingham met with tourism operators in Cairns on Monday, saying the government’s economic measures wouldn’t be limited to the stimulus package.

“We will work from now through until the federal budget to make sure that not only is that $17.6 billion spent and invested wisely to save as many businesses and jobs as possible, but also that we look at what else is going to be necessary in the future to see everyone through what is going to be a long and challenging period,” he said.

The state governments have also pledged their own stimulus packages, with New South Wales, currently the state worst affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, announcing a $2.3 billion stimulus package.

While $700 million will be spent on increasing the capacity of intensive care units throughout the state, $1.6 billion is being pledged to help keep people in jobs, and to support small business.

“This package works hand-in-hand with the recent moves by the Reserve Bank of Australia and the federal government,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

In an effort to help small businesses, $450 million will be allocated to waive payroll tax for the next three months, or until the end of the financial year. This will be available for all businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million.

The NSW government is also scrapping fees that apply to businesses in the hospitality sector such as bars, cafes, restaurants, as well as tradespeople.

The Western Australian government has announced its own $609 million economic stimulus package, in a bid to support households and small businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Of that $114 million has been pledged to support small businesses in WA with a focus on payroll tax breaks.

Any WA small business that pays payroll tax will receive a one-off grant of $17,500. Businesses with a payroll of between $1 million and $4 million will be eligible for the grant.

Businesses with payroll of less than $1 million will become exempt from payroll tax, from July 1.

Western Australian businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak may also be eligible to defer their payroll tax payments until July 21.