Tourism and event industry bodies have been united in their call for the Federal Government to extend JobKeeper for beleaguered tourism and event operators beyond March while simultaneously calling for an end to the uncertainty around border closures.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk got behind the call for an extension to JobKeeper but was slammed by NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who made the salient point that her hardline stance on border closures was one of the biggest contributing factors to the damage wrought on Queensland’s tourism sector.
And this highlights the dilemma facing the Federal Government as it prepares to cut the income support that is keeping so many in the tourism and event industry afloat while border uncertainty remains as big as threat as it was in 2020.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has consistently stated that there will be no extension to JobKeeper beyond March 28, saying the Federal Government has already done the majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to income support for those sectors most affected by Covid related restrictions.
“The Morrison government has delivered more than three times the amount of money to Queenslanders than the Annastacia Palaszczuk government has even committed to,” he told the Australian Financial Review.
“So I’d welcome the state government in Queensland making more of a commitment.”
State and territory leaders learnt early on that taking a hardline stance on borders and lockdowns was a vote winner, irrespective of the costs on their own tourism and event sectors which were effectively being propped up by federal money thanks to JobKeeper.
But without JobKeeper, those same leaders will have to shoulder the fiscal reality of border closures and lockdowns on their own tourism sectors. And that’s a different story altogether.
In the meantime, the Federal Government has signalled it is looking at other means of support for the tourism and event sector beyond JobKeeper.
The catch-22 for Prime Minister Scott Morrison is that if his government keeps picking up the tab for the tourism sector, state and territory leaders still have no incentive to implement a national border policy and put an end to the uncertainty.
“Treasury is analysing the data in the tourism industry,” said Frydenberg.
“The [Tourism] Minister, Dan Tehan, is talking to the industry leaders and we’ll consider whatever future targeted assistance may be required.
“But the key for the tourism sector in Australia is going to be consistency and clarity around border closures.”
Tehan echoed Frydenberg’s comments saying that state and territory leaders “could really play an influential role by getting a consistency around hotspot definitions and border closures”.
“If the Queensland Premier could play her part in that, that would be wonderful for the Queensland tourism industry,” Tehan told the AFR.
“If we could get that consistency, that would provide certainty to the sector. And I’ve got no doubt that we would see a strong rebound right across the tourism sector here in Australia.”
So maybe a national policy on borders will be part of the new support package. And that would be the best news the events industry has had since the announcement a vaccine rollout would begin this month.