Speaking from Cairns on a tour of Queensland to speak with tourism businesses, the Treasurer said the government will announce its plans to extend targeted support to select businesses once JobKeeper ends later this month.
“We’ve put in place the JobKeeper program,” Mr Frydenberg said. “That ends in March. We’ve got other programs continuing to roll out with support, but we’re also looking at other measures.”
“We’re still finalising those details, but it’s a matter of days,” he said.
The announcement follows an appeal last month to the federal government from the Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), Australia’s peak tourism industry body, which called for the Morrison government to give cashflow boosts to businesses that have been worst hit by COVID-19, in lieu of further JobKeeper stimulus.
Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director, Simon Westaway, said targeted support was necessary for the sector’s post-pandemic survival at a time when much of the sector is preparing for mass redundancies.
“Timing around further support is now critical,” Mr Westaway said. “Labour and workplace agreements require minimum four-week notice periods and business needs to cover redundancy provisions ahead of March 2021.”
“Tourism business operational and labour decisions are being made on the assumption of no new assistance when JobKeeper concludes and is a looming deadline.”
Mr Westaway, whose organisation represents the interests of more than 10,000 tourism businesses across the country, warned that the waning support wouldn’t just hurt tourism businesses, but the communities that rely on them, too.
“The damage to the economy, and tourism-reliant communities, from further tourism business closures and job losses should not be underestimated over this forthcoming period.”
In place of JobKeeper, the Transport and Tourism Forum (TTF) in late February urged the federal government to roll out a $7.7 billion wage subsidy program, which would function as an extension of JobKeeper, exclusive to the tourism industry.
The program, like JobKeeper, would see businesses keep employees on the books, giving them up to $1,500 per fortnight, per employee, and be claimable by all businesses eligible for JobKeeper.
“The industry needs support for the next six to nine months while vaccinations kick in, while borders sort themselves out,” said Margy Osmon, CEO at TTF.
While a continued wage subsidy would be ideal for the sector, Mr Westaway said, cash flow boosts would be a workable alternative.