The need for tailored financial support for travel agents is once again being flagged on the floor of federal parliament, this time by former Labor leader Bill Shorten and member for Warringah Zali Steggall.
During Monday’s proceedings, Shorten, who is the member for Maribyrnong, spoke out about the workers who have been left behind by JobKeeper, and who will be left behind in December when the payments end.
“I want to talk about one group of people. If they are not the hardest hit, no other group is any harder hit. I talk about the small and medium-size businesses of the travel agency sector,” he said.
“They’ve been terribly hard hit in Australia, in Victoria and in my electorate of Maribyrnong and they are concerned that, without proper, targeted support, it will be the death knell for their businesses.”
Shorten said he recently met with a group of travel agents from his electorate as well as the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) CEO Darren Rudd.
“They made the directness of their plight very plain emotionally, truthfully, factually, painfully,” he said.
“Travel agents in Australia employ 40,000 Australians in metro and regional locations. Thirty thousand of the employees in the travel agency sector are women.
“They are the fabric of each community. They sponsor the local clubs and the local high street traders. They are part of our landscape.”
“I met with AFTA, and they have asked for sector-specific funding in the form of grants – a 12-month bridge back to business of $250 million, plus concessional loans. That’s AFTA’s ask. The government will have to work out if they can afford it, which I suspect they can.
“These travel agents, these small and medium-sized businesses, deserve imagination. They deserve passion. They deserve a bespoke approach. They deserve respect.
“Forty-thousand people who helped make the rest of us have a much more enjoyable quality of life. Let us, who have benefited from the travel agency industry, not abandon the travel agency industry, because certainly if we booked with them they wouldn’t do that to us.”
Steggall also mentioned meeting with travel agents from her electorate and said they are desperate.
“They are calling on Minister Birmingham to do something about their sector,” she said.
“They’re desperate that there either be some travel corridors or something to address it.
“They are in a situation of no pipeline of work for some 12 to 18 months, as we face worldwide uncertainty over what is happening with the pandemic.
“We can’t just assume that a vaccine will be available and it will be a return to business as usual. We must prepare and have a long-term plan.”
Rudd is currently in Canberra meeting with key decision-makers including the prime minister’s office continuing to push the cause for support.
A petition calling for tailored support with 5008 signatures was also lodged in the House of Representatives, which you can check out here.
This follows news that targeted travel agent support was the most-flagged issue raised by members of parliament at an early October Joint Coalition Party Room meeting.
According to a release from AFTA, this came as a result of its members briefing 42 cabinet and shadow cabinet ministers.
Featured image credit: Facebook/Bill Shorten