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The Economy and Supporting Travel Agents

11 Nov | '2020

Ms BELL: (Moncrieff) (19:35): I would say to the member opposite that the Property Council on the Gold Coast informed me that the HomeBuilder program is in fact having quite a large impact on the Gold Coast, a 40 per cent increase.

Mr Wallace interjecting

The SPEAKER: I will just say to the member for Fisher that the member for Moncrieff has the call.

Ms BELL: Thank you, Speaker. I would also say to those across the other side that everyone in this place and in Australia knows and understands the impact that the coronavirus has had in our communities. Of course it is dependent on the location and the industry, but the nature of the impact can be very different from region to region.

The Morrison government has successfully cushioned the blow of the pandemic and has created momentum for recovery through the 2020-21 budget. Many of the most important government measures, like JobKeeper, are available broadly to industries and businesses across the country. The Morrison government has delivered $101 billion in JobKeeper, and that includes to 10,400 businesses in Moncrieff, which are only open because of JobKeeper—out of 32,111 small businesses in Moncrieff, about a third of all businesses, as of the last census. So it is a very important measure that is keeping the Gold Coast going at the moment. Businesses like the Kurrawa Surf Club, which we were speaking of earlier today in the Federation Chamber, and Temple of Spices at Mermaid Beach, have graduated from the JobKeeper program and are now standing on their own feet—breaking even, but standing on their own feet.

Other measures, such as the cash flow boost payment of $100,000 and the instant asset write-off, have assisted businesses in my region. Largely due to the border lockdown measures of the Queensland government, tourism and international education have all been pretty much smashed up in my electorate. But there are some industries that have unique circumstances and warrant tailored responses, like the aviation sector, for example. The government has been very nimble in delivering industry-specific measures within the limits of the urgency required by the crisis situation. Some of those measures have included $95 million for exhibiting zoos and aquariums across the Gold Coast. We have seen $50 million for events rebates and $10 million for regional tourism in my region. We have also seen a local jobs plan for the Gold Coast, with $780,000 for employment facilitators for my region and 24 other regions across the country.

But as the economy recovers and borders reopen, which is key for the Gold Coast and for Moncrieff, the Morrison government is adjusting measures that cushion the blow. We are implementing new measures to support Australia’s economic recovery. So it is timely we examine which sectors need extra attention at this time. Since the pandemic hit, I’ve been working with tourism stakeholders across the Gold Coast. Recently I have met a few times with a number of travel agents from my electorate, represented by the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, AFTA, who requested my support to advocate for additional government assistance tailored to the industry, which is in a dire situation. I gave them my word at that meeting that I would make representations to the government to assist travel agents. It is important to note that many of those travel agents have been supported by programs such as JobKeeper and the cash flow boost, and they told me how it is going. Importantly, very many of them are women over the age of 60.

Travel agents in Moncrieff and in other electorates around Australia are requesting that the government deliver industry-specific support. Along with a great number of my parliamentary colleagues I have been advocating to the government that it give serious consideration to this matter. Typical travel agent commission structures have been made particularly vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact because they’ve experienced dramatic falls in revenue, combined with obligations to refund commissions and deposits they’ve already received and no income for the near future—so they’re in a very, very tricky situation. I support the government’s careful consideration of industry-specific support measures for travel agents. You might think the travel agents are the man in the middle and perhaps doomed to future irrelevance—that could be one view—but, actually, the industry pre-COVID had five years of consecutive growth, and 70 per cent of all bookings were made through travel agents. As we all work together to deliver the best support for all Australians, we should, where practical, deliver industry-specific measures, where the evidence makes it clear it’s appropriate, temporary and effective.

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