COVID-19 Support for Travel Agents

By Matt Keogh MP

15 March 2021

Watch Matt's speech here

I proudly stand in support of this motion which urges the government not just to listen to the travel sector and support the travel agents but to also ask for extending ongoing support to all those areas of the Australian economy that continue to be impacted the most by COVID-19 and are, unfortunately, now the last to recover. It is only now13 days until JobKeeper is withdrawn by this government on 28 March yet there are 1.1 million workers employed by businesses that are relying on receiving that JobKeeper payment. Indeed, the government's Treasury predicts that 100,000 people will lose their jobs when JobKeeper is withdrawn at the end of the month. Some other experts believe this number may be as high as 250,000 people. JobKeeper has been vital in keeping people not just in work but connected to their employer. That's why Labor suggested this policy in the first place. But alas, whilst the government did implement it, it left crucial gaps in many areas of the economy and now, in a time when we're still experiencing the downturn of the COVID pandemic, while international borders are not just closed but clearly will be closed for a long time to come, this government sees fit to see those JobKeeper supports withdrawn from the businesses relying on them, their employees who are relying on them and their families who are relying on them.

I've been making a bit of a campaign out of this and have been making numerous posts, speeches and videos on my Facebook page. I have been saying that I will be raising this issue in parliament. Many businesses and individuals have come back to me with how JobKeeper being withdrawn is going to affect them. I was asked to put a word in for a business that didn't qualify for the second round of JobKeeper just because of one random good month despite all the other months being down. I was asked to stick up for sole traders who had invested years into their trade and were likely to die off because tourism was their livelihood. I was asked to stick up for mum-and-dad businesses that need support right now, more than ever, after a year now of dealing with COVID. I was asked to acknowledge that, for so many businesses across the country, it's been super tough staying strong and listening to the government rhetoric that apparently 'everything is back to pre-COVID' when in reality so many people and businesses are still struggling. Airlines, airports, unions and aviation businesses have spent the last 12 months calling on the Morrison government to provide more support for Australian aviation. Instead, the Morrison government denied support to airports, denied JobKeeper to dnata workers, allowed Virgin Australia to fall into administration and stood by as Qantas sacked 8½ thousand workers.

The tourism sector, which will supposedly benefit from the announcements made last week, say the package isn't good enough. While the extra help is of course welcome, loans are no substitute for responsible, targeted and temporary extension of JobKeeper for the sectors and communities that are still hurting due to international border closures. Mr Rees, the director of the Cairns Adventure Group, said, and this is a message:

JobKeeper ending is a tragedy for employee confidence in this region.

The Tourism Transport Forum's chief executive, Margy Osmond, said:

... we don't think it's going to go far enough to save the jobs we had hoped to see secured at the end of March.

The CEO of the Council of Small Business Australia, Peter Strong, said:

[The package] won’t save all the jobs at risk ...

Graham Turner, the managing director of Flight Centre, said:

Superficially there is not a lot of benefit to us in the travel industry.

Australian businesses deserve better out of this government. The cinema industry is suffering because it has gone through a whole period of having to close and then having restricted customer numbers because of spacing requirements, but, also, all of the big movie houses and production companies have deferred their major releases, which is what they rely on to be able to make their money, especially over the crucial summer school holidays.

We are still experiencing outbreaks in Australia. The state governments have stood up, done the hard work, listened to the health advice and done the right thing by their people to keep them safe, yet the government thinks now is the appropriate time to withdraw support, when we are not just still experiencing the economic effects but also still experiencing the health effects of the COVID pandemic as it spreads across the country. With 13 days to go, businesses now don't have time to take proper action when the government was promising them support but is now giving them nothing.