The federal government has released details of the second stage of its plan to cushion the economic blow of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The second stage is worth $66.1 billion, bringing the total of the government’s economic support package to $189 billion, which is about 9.7 per cent of Australia’s GDP.
In a live press conference at Parliament House on Sunday Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the package was dedicated to providing sustainable measures to keep businesses afloat and bounce back when the crisis has passed.
“We want to help businesses keep going as best they can and for as long as they can, or to pause instead of winding up their business,” Morrison said.
“[The stimulus package is] geared towards building a bridge, keeping more people in work…and keeping businesses alive so they can get to the other side and stand up their workforce as quickly as possible.”
The package includes support for households including casuals, sole traders, retirees and those on income support as well as assistance for businesses to keep employees on the payroll and regulatory protection and financial support for businesses to stay in business.
The CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), Jayson Westbury, said in a statement he is encouraging agents and agency owners to read about the package and find out how to access the support.
“We will do all we can to decipher this and send more detail as we are able, but I stress, take a look and try and find your way through,” Westbury said.
“AFTA will continue to work with the government to identify the acute and specific challenges that we face as people look to cancel or take a credit forward for bookings and how you as the person in the middle can deal with this.
“We know this is a big problem and we are taking this up directly with the government. I hope that we will be able to find a solution that works for everyone.”
You can read a summary of what’s included in the package HERE.
The Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) has called the cash injection “financial life support”.
ATIC executive director Simon Westaway said it is of major significance at a critical time.
“The rapid and dramatic changes in travel advisories, to the recent closure of some state and territory borders, would, of course, be seen as unfathomable just months ago,” Westaway said.
“But in these times our industry, a genuine economic and social pillar in Australia, must take the appropriate resilience measures in order to push through to the other side.
“This is well-targeted government support that can directly appeal and benefit many Australian tourism SMEs at no more critical time and will provide a new buffer against the calamitous state our great industry and now much of our economy finds itself.”
However, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has criticised the package and said the support doesn’t go far enough.
“The offer of up to $100,000 to small businesses to keep workers employed will get burned through in a matter of weeks for many companies,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.
“For workers employed in larger businesses, there is no support. Qantas workers are being stood down now and the company is forcing them to bail it out and fund the airline through their own accrued and future leave.
“The Government is wasting time and not taking the necessary steps to save jobs and support workers. The lack of definitive intervention is creating anxiety among workers,”
Kaine said allowing workers to access Superfund, which have been dwindling significantly in the market turmoil, is also the wrong move.
“It is nothing short of fiscal stupidity to expect workers to dip into superannuation savings which in recent weeks have been reduced significantly,” he said
“It will lock workers into significant market losses… the Government is expecting workers to shoulder the burden of this crisis.
“That is not just unfair, it is also dangerous as it will leave workers and the economy in a worse off position to bounce back from the crisis once the pandemic is under control.”
The CEO of the Accommodation Association, Dean Long, also hit out at the package and said it fails to take into account that tourism demand has stopped.
“The harsh reality is that consecutive announcements – closure of borders, grounding of flights and cruise ships, self-isolation and now cancellation of non-essential travel together with the closure of restaurants and bars– while necessary for health reasons, have killed all demand,” Long said.
“Hotels Australia-wide are reporting occupancies of below 10 per cent and are now looking to close their doors.
“A payment of $100,000 across this and next financial year will do little to protect the 86,100 jobs in an industry facing pandemic isolation measures that have effectively stopped travel.
“With the announcement that the measures are in place for the next 6 months and will potentially escalate, the Government needs to act now to ensure the tourism accommodation industry retains jobs and has a future.”
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