Tourism coalition welcomes JobKeeper package but says more needed

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s latest round of economic stimulus involves fortnightly payments of $1500 for Australian workers in danger of being stood down or losing their job altogether.

The $130 billion package is expected to cover the next six months and affect as many as six million Australians.

Workers who have already been stood down will be eligible for the allowance as long as they were employed by their business on March 1.

The JobKeeper payments will apply to part-time and well as full-time workers, sole traders and casual workers, if they have been with their employer for 12 months or more.

Eligible employers are businesses including companies, partnerships, trusts and sole traders, not-for-profits and charities that have lost 30 per cent or more of their revenue compared to a comparable period a year ago (if they have a turnover of less than $1 billion) or have recorded at least a 50 per cent reduction in revenue compared to a comparable period a year ago (if they have a turnover of $1 billion or more).

Businesses can register their interest in participating in the payment on the ATO website. The payments will be rolled out in the first week of May and backdated to March 30.

“Now is the time to dig deep,” Morrison said.

“We are living in unprecedented times. With the twin battles that we face and that we fight against – a virus and against the economic ruin that it can threaten.

The JobKeeper package has been welcomed by tourism industry bodies, saying it will help save thousands of jobs in the tourism, hospitality, events and accommodation sectors.

“This latest economic survival measure is just what industry has been waiting for and provides the lifeline needed to assist them in retaining valued staff who have helped to build their businesses into what they were before this crisis crippled our sector,” said the Victoria Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani

“Allowing businesses to bring back employees that were previously on their books means they can completely rethink their operating environment knowing that the JobKeeper Payment will help subsidise the cost of having these employees in their business.

“Most importantly, it means that once we get to the other side of this crisis, tourism businesses across Victoria will have been able to retain the passionate and valued staff they will need to gear up again and to kick-start the recovery process for our vital industry.”

A number of other peak industry bodies have have also welcomed the subsidy.

The industry bodies, who include the Tourism and Transport Forum, the Accommodation Association, Cruise Lines International Association, the Australian Federation of Travel Agents the Restaurant and Catering Australia and the Business Events Council of Australia, are also lobbying the government for a multi-billion-dollar package to save the country’s massive visitor economy.

“This subsidy couldn’t have come soon enough and will help to save thousands more tourism employees from being stood down and being forced to join the unemployment queues,” they said in statement.

The organisations said that the hotels and restaurants, cruise, business events, aviation and the arts and cultural sectors are haemorrhaging billions of dollars per month as the tourism industry faces one of its biggest crises.

“The tourism industry is losing almost $9 billion every month that the global pandemic continues and is forecasting job losses of well over 300,000 so we are calling on Government to recognise the urgency of providing these employers with sector-specific financial assistance,” they said.

“We acknowledge all of the steps taken by the Federal and State and Territory Governments are entirely necessary to ensure the health and wellbeing of Australians, but we are now at a point where our industry and its people are in the fight for survival. For many businesses, revenues have dropped to zero.”

The peak bodies sent a second letter to the Prime Minister last Friday making a strong case for the tourism industry’s bigger businesses to be front and centre of any new economic lifeline package describing them as providing the scaffolding for the tourism sector and for business events.

The letter outlines several key requests for larger businesses.

  • The investment incentives announced as part of the first stimulus package should be extended to all companies. This includes the expanded instant asset write-off and the accelerated depreciation investment incentive.
  • Monthly company tax instalments should be moved to quarterly instalments for a temporary period as they were during the GFC to provide some cash flow assistance.
  • Federal Government backed corporate guarantees to enable businesses to secure funding from financiers to ensure they can survive the crisis.
  • The provision of rent abatements for all tourism businesses to help businesses survive while either closed or only offering limited service (e.g. takeaway), for the remainder of the year by implementing economic incentives for landlords to do this.
  • Major utilities relief in the form of a $100 million tourism, hospitality, accommodation and business events energy support package to minimise the cost impost of utilities on our sector.

The peak bodies said the sector will be critical to the Australian economy as it manages through the current survival phase and later into the eventual economic recovery phase.

“In order for our businesses to play their essential role in any recovery, they need to still be operating. To be operating we need urgent Federal and State and Territory Government support,” they said.

“These sensible reforms will help to ensure the nation’s essential visitor economy can survive the current crisis and come out the other side a stronger and more resilient industry.”