Tourism industry rescue package to be unveiled in “a matter of days”, says Treasurer

orange life ring hanging on the bridge

Australia’s tourism industry will find out within days what kind of financial support will be provided by the federal government, according to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

During a visit to business operators in Cairns on Monday, Frydenberg said the government still had $100 billion in financial aid to roll out to business and industry, having already committed $251 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Canberra Times.

But the Treasurer noted there were specific hurdles for the tourism and aviation sectors that required a response from the government.

“We’re still finalising those details, but it’s a matter of days,” Frydenberg said.

“What I’ve heard from some businesses that I’ve met is that some are doing well and others are finding it a bit more challenging … so it’s about targeting that support, but also providing opportunities for those who are doing okay to even take on more workers.”

Elements of the government’s targeted support package will include funding for airlines, tourism operators and accommodation providers, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Nine-owned news outlet reported that direct cash payments to certain businesses that have been smacked around the most by COVID-19 are also expected to form part of the package, as well as low-interest, government-backed loans.

The tourism support package will arrive just before the government winds back JobKeeper on 28 March.

Simon Westaway, executive director of the Australian Tourism Export Council, said the federal tourism package must include direct financial assistance to all at-risk businesses in the sector.

“The tourism businesses in the capital cities are most at risk due to the downturn in interstate travel,” he said.

“The tourism industry is not looking for more grant programs or pork-barrelling in a few regions.

“Direct financial assistance should go to all tourism businesses at risk, including sole traders and small family businesses, as well as major airlines.”

Westaway warned that tourism businesses are already planning mass redundancies across the industry due to the lack of certainty with the impending end of JobKeeper.

Meanwhile, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has warned against the government replacing JobKeeper for aviation workers with interest-free loans to businesses, saying the move will result in a skills-drain from the industry.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine is calling on the government to introduce ‘Aviation Keeper’, an extension to JobKeeper for all aviation workers with strict conditions capping CEO salaries, banning bonuses and dividends, and banning outsourcing.

“Aviation is about to bleed skills as JobKeeper falls off a cliff. The only solution the federal government appears able to come up with is to replace it with free money to companies without any conditions attached on retaining workers,” he said.

“This exposes how the federal government has no plan and no strategy for aviation.”

“Interest-free loans are another way of saying ‘bailout’. Now is the time for the federal government to secure a real return for the taxpayer and to take an equity stake in ailing aviation companies.

“This way, the interests of passengers and workers can be at the forefront instead of the interests of CEOs and shareholders.

“We can retain skills in our industry and ensure affordable, reliable air travel throughout Australia rather than propping up senior management at the likes of Qantas, which want the public subsidies but still get to call the shots, including outsourcing workers.”

Featured image source: iStock/FluxFactory

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