QUEENSLAND Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has called on the government to extend its JobKeeper payment amid fears the Sunshine State’s tourism industry will collapse without it.
The $1000 federal government subsidy is due to end in March, cutting funding for nearly 200,000 businesses in Queensland.
There are concerns employers could be forced to slash workforces without out, pushing up the state’s already high unemployment rate of 7.5 per cent.
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Speaking from Cairns, the Premier urged Prime Minster Scott Morrison to think about extending it.
“If JobKeeper is cut in March, there’s no doubt hundreds, if not thousands of tourism businesses will go under,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Regions like Cairns, the Whitsundays and the Gold Coast that rely on the tourism industry to stay afloat will be worst hit.
“We understand a lot of businesses are back on their feet, but there are some industries that aren’t.
“So what we’re asking for is a helping hand in this hour of need.”
Assistant Tourism Industry Development Minister Michael Healy said the program was vital for the industry.
“I’ve been in the tourism industry for 35 years and I remember when Scott Morrison was cutting his teeth in the marketing role of Tourism Australia, and he came up with the campaign ‘Where The Bloody Hell Are You?’,” he said.
“My question to (local federal MP) Warren Entsch and to Scott Morrison at a time of great need is: where the bloody hell are you?”
Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said a more targeted funding package needed to be arranged.
“As we move forward I think it is important that the Federal Government pick up tools that are maybe more finer grained, a bit more sharp, in how they respond to the needs of the economy and in particular industries like the tourism industry,” Minister Hinchliffe said.
Tourism leaders have welcomed the news the border restrictions for Greater Sydney will come to an end at 1am on Monday, allowing free travel between Queensland and New South Wales, but there is still a slight apprehension within the industry that the borders could close again at a moments notice.
Premier Palaszczuk admitted that is always a chance, especially is there is an outbreak of the highly infectious UK COVID-19 strain.
“Like we did in Greater Brisbane where we had to shut down immediately,” she said.
“But fingers crossed, that won’t happen.”