JobKeeker replacement package days away but Frydenberg scant on detail

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says government is close to unveiling support for tourism and event sector post JobKeeper.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has hinted that a financial assistance package to replace JobKeeper for the tourism and events sector is only “a matter of days” away.

Speaking in Cairns, Frydenberg said the Federal Government is close to revealing the scope of any package to save the tourism and event sectors from the ongoing effects of lockdowns and border closures.

The $90 billion JobKeeper program comes to an end on March 28, with Frydenberg pointing to extended support for airlines, small tourist service operators and accommodation outlets.

“These are important issues that we’ve been working on for some time,” he said.

“We’ve done an extensive amount of work. It’s about targeting that support but also providing opportunities for those who are doing okay to even take on more workers, which is going to be good news for people across the country.”

There is speculation that direct cash payments to those businesses hit the hardest along with low-interest, government-backed loans will form the backbone of any support package.

There has been no word on whether a national border framework is any closer, but Tourism Minister Dan Tehan is meeting with state and territory ministers tomorrow to see what can be agreed upon to deliver

Speaking at the annual Destination Australia conference, held in Sydney last week, Tehan said the states had to shoulder some of the financial burden to support the sector.

“The federal government, and the states and territories have a very important role to play. JobKeeper has assisted and helped the sector throughout the last 12 months, but JobKeeper will end at the end of March,” he said.

“At the moment, we’re looking at what targeted measures we can put in place to help and support [the sector.]”

“We’re going to need the state and territories to help us too. They have a key role to play, not only in ensuring that border closures are only used as a last resort, but also in making sure they’re playing their part within their state or territory to engage with the sector and help the sector build this bridge we need over the next three to six months as we roll the vaccine out.”

Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison also called for a unified solution to opening borders again.

“Moving forward we will need to join together to define and influence the future environment for tourism – which means solutions and a timetable which will lead to open borders, because that is what is going to get us back to some sense of normality,” she said.

Many were disappointed at Frydenberg’s lack of detail, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk describing his trip to Cairns as “a slap in the face to the people of Far North Queensland”.

Queensland Tourism Industry Association chief executive Daniel Gschwind also said the Federal Treasurer “really had nothing to offer other than restatement of the fact that the economy was going better than expected”.

“But that’s certainly not the case in Cairns,” Gschwind said. “When the federal Treasurer goes up to one of the epicentres of the COVID devastation in tourism there are great expectations that something positive would be announced but that was not the case and there was palpable disappointment.”