The National Party is pushing for a redirection of $180 million in federal funding to help the travel industry survive post-Jobkeeper.
Spearheaded by Nationals MP Pat Conaghan, the plan would see $180 million from the two assistance packages for travel agents used as a top-up payment to the JobSeeker unemployment benefit, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The top-up would be aimed at travel agency staff who lose their jobs after the 31 March JobKeeper deadline, adding a $400 fortnightly supplement to the $620.80 JobSeeker payment.
“The travel industry has lost everything,” Conaghan said during a meeting with Minister for Tourism Dan Tehan.
In an impassioned speech he posted to his Facebook page, Conaghan said domestic travel only accounts for between five and ten per cent of income for travel agents and that 17,000 people have left the industry so far.
“This is an industry we cannot leave to die,” he said.
A press release from the Federal National Party said the party supports Conaghan’s advocating for an industry-specific package.
“After meeting with travel agents from my electorate in September and facilitating a zoom meeting with travel representatives from across Nationals and LNP electorates recently, the Nationals Members of Parliament have discussed the industry’s plight and are calling for an industry-specific support package,” Conaghan said.
“I want the travel industry to know the Nationals have your back and we appreciate 40 per cent of your travel agencies operate in regional and rural Australia and 80 per cent of your workers are women.”
Conaghan has met with AFTA CEO Darren Rudd and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in recent days to discuss the contents of a potential support package to take to Cabinet.
“There is still $4 billion owed to Australians in refunds from internationally based airlines, hotels and tour operators,” Rudd said.
“Travel agents have successfully secured $6 billion back for their customers already. It’s a process that is complex, frustrating in the current circumstances and time-consuming.
“Travel agents are doing this for free while continuing to bear the associated operating costs. Without tailored support, this already financially untenable situation becomes unbearable. If travel agents are forced to close their doors, not only will more jobs go but who will look after those consumers still waiting to get their money back?
“This is why we are so grateful for every bit of support including from so many MPs including Pat Conaghan in raising the desperate need of travel agents and travelling Australians.”
Rudd and AFTA director David Smith met with Tehan on Wednesday to discuss the additional $130 million of the consumer support grant.
“The focus of the meeting was the design principles for the $130 million second round of the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Consumer Support Grant and the need to ensure the balance of the $128 Million round one is distributed appropriately,” said Rudd.
“In addition to encouraging the Government to look at extending the grant period beyond the current June end, AFTA continues to push for equitable and timely distribution of funds to those travel businesses that so desperately need support.”