Economic Support for the Gold Coast
22 Mar | '2021
I find it very interesting that the member for Fowler took this opportunity in this debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021 to bring up Labor’s response to the GFC, allowing me to actually highlight or at least look at the differences between how Labor responded to a crisis and how the LNP government responded to a crisis. We all remember that what we got under the Labor government was the pink batts debacle. That was pretty much the response from those on the other side. I like the member for Fowler. It’s great to see the member for Fowler here in the House. I respect the member very much and it’s good to see you well again, member for Fowler. He’s a terrific fellow and I enjoy his company but on this particular thing we disagree. Our government actually invested $250 billion in jobs and here we are, 11 months later, with an unemployment rate that is at 5.8 per cent. I think that that money was well worth it. The debt that we currently face was necessary to keep our country going, and that’s what our government has done—kept our country going. The member for Fowler talked about a short-term policy for a short-term what, crisis? Indeed, JobKeeper, as we know, was a short-term policy arrangement in response to twin crises—the economic and health crises that we have been facing—and it is our government, the Morrison government, that has held together businesses, certainly in my electorate of Moncrieff.
This debate on the appropriations bill gives me the opportunity to talk about some of those programs that I wouldn’t otherwise get to talk about, that are under way on the Gold Coast. So I will take this opportunity to tell Australians and those in my electorate the sorts of things that we’ve been doing. I will start with the obvious one—that is, of course, tourism on the Gold Coast—which was about a $5 billion industry across the Gold Coast and provided one in six jobs before coronavirus hit. The Moncrieff tourism businesses and the many businesses that benefit from the tourists’ spend have made it clear to the government over the last five or six weeks that the best assistance they could have would be tourists back through their doors and that’s what we delivered with the $1.2 billion tourism package announced just last week. It may have been the week before—the weeks are blending into each other here this month. We announced that when we were up at Currumbin sanctuary up on the Gold Coast, where we outlined the support package for tourism businesses to get tourists back through the doors—that was, around about 800,000 tickets at half price that the government is supporting to help the tourism sector get on its feet.
The Gold Coast has been a dramatically affected by that announcement. We have already seen uplift. We have seen the Gold Coast and Cairns neck and neck for the most googled destination across the country and there were 14 other destinations that were also supported through that package. Our economy has recovered 85 per cent of its fall from COVID-19, but many are still doing it tough, and we know that those tourism and events operators, particularly on the Gold Coast, are doing it tough. Things are a little bit easier now that some of the measures put in place by the state government have been lifted and we have a little bit more certainty around the borders. Of course, that’s the certainty that we need with this tourism and aviation package. We managed, as I said, to get the unemployment rate back to five per cent. That meant, in February, there were 88,700 new jobs. That puts us back to the figure that we were at 11 months ago, which is that 13 million Australians who are now in jobs. That’s definitely something to be celebrated—an absolutely fantastic result for our economy.
Getting back to the tourism package: as I said, there were 800,000 half-priced airline tickets. There were some changes to affordable loans for small to medium enterprises. There are about 32,000 small businesses in my electorate alone. Many of them rely on the tourism sector—the cafes, the restaurants, the accommodation providers. Many tourism operators, mum and dad businesses that we have been supporting through JobKeeper, will now have people coming through their front doors and booking tours, which is fantastic news.
This direct support is to keep planes flying and airline workers in their jobs. The Morrison government is backing Gold Coast tourism businesses by getting tourists back on the planes, with tickets discounted by 50 per cent, and knocking on the front doors of the tourism operators. The half-priced tickets will be available on airline websites from 1 April. It’s very exciting to get those bookings online so that we can have more people travelling around the country to those 15 destinations.
This support package includes new international aviation support to help Australia’s two international passenger airlines. Without airlines we don’t have a tourism sector, so I’m sure everybody in this chamber would agree that’s a very important measure. That will maintain more than 8,000 core international aviation jobs. It’s very important that we keep those jobs in place so that we can fly around the country and, when the international borders open up, we can fly around the world. So support for regular passenger airports to meet their domestic security screening costs is really important.
A new Aviation Services Assistance Support Program will help ground-handling companies meet the costs of mandatory training, certification and accreditation to ensure they maintain their workforces so they can stand them back up when the market expands again and the borders open up. The domestic aviation security screening charges rebate will be reinstated for more than 50 regular passenger airports. That’s 50 airports around the country that are so important to jobs and so important not just to domestic tourism but to international tourism as well, when that comes back.
Many businesses in Moncrieff have graduated from the JobKeeper program. At its peak, I had 10,500 businesses on JobKeeper in Moncrieff, and most of my colleagues seem to have around 5,000 businesses in their electorates on JobKeeper. In Moncrieff it was quite a large number, about 30 per cent of all businesses across my electorate. So JobKeeper has been very important to the local economy on the central Gold Coast, and businesses thank me. Every time I go to an event in my electorate—a chamber event, a tourism event, a timeshare event—people thank the federal government publicly for what we have done to keep their businesses running. Some businesses still need that bridge, so we are backing businesses that are prepared to back themselves. That’s what we do on the Gold Coast. With the SME Recovery Loan Scheme, businesses can borrow money—some skin in the game. That’s what we do on the Gold Coast, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. The government will expand and extend its SME loan guarantee scheme as part of its commitment to support up to $40 billion in lending to small and medium enterprises. Under the existing scheme more than 35,000 loans worth more than $3 billion have already been provided to SMEs, helping thousands of small businesses get to the other side of this pandemic. And that’s what’s important—that bridge to the other side. We’re coming out of that now, with unemployment rate having dropped down to 5.8 per cent and more people in jobs in February. The SME Recovery Loan Scheme will also now provide an increased government guarantee, increasing from the current 50-50 split between the government and the banks to an 80-20 split. This will encourage more banks to support small business, and demonstrates the government’s commitment to back those businesses that are prepared to back themselves.
The expanded scheme will also increase the size of eligible loans. They will increase from $1 million, under the current scheme, to $5 million. That will allow businesses to borrow more money. Businesses with a higher turnover will also benefit under the expanded scheme, with the maximum eligible turnover increased from $50 million to $250 million. So we’re expanding those measures as JobKeeper steps down, as it inevitably must.
Maximum loan terms under the expanded scheme will also increase from five years to 10 years, providing businesses and lenders with greater flexibility. The expanded scheme will also allow lenders to offer borrowers a repayment holiday of up to 24 months. Again, that is to help businesses in that period so they can build their business, get back on their feet and move forward to the very bright future we have for our economy in this country.
Importantly, the scheme will enable eligible businesses to refinance their existing loans, which is a new measure we’ve added. This will allow SMEs to access the more concessional interest rates available under the program and to better manage their cash flow through an extended loan term and lower combined repayments. So the Morrison government really does know how to support businesses to protect and create jobs, and that stands in that 5.8 per cent unemployment figure. That is what the government is being judged on by the Australian people and that is what we have delivered just this month.
Also, the Morrison government’s boosting apprenticeships subsidy is being expanded. It has already helped create 100,000 new apprenticeships in only five months. I’m pleased to report to the House that 900 of those are in Moncrieff. It’s very exciting for the good people of Moncrieff to know that there have been 100,000 new apprenticeships in just the past five months. The government is removing the cap on places, providing a full 12 months of support for employers who engage an apprentice or a trainee between 5 October 2020 and 30 September 2021. The government’s investment in the program is $2.4 billion, which is quite a large investment in that program.
The program expansion will support hundreds more apprenticeships in Moncrieff, and I look forward to seeing those apprentices around my electorate. I know we need more apprentice motor mechanics, so I will do a bit of a shout-out to those young people in Moncrieff looking for an apprenticeship. There are opportunities all over Moncrieff for motor mechanics. I encourage them to retrain now. It’s a great time to move into an apprenticeship. A good example of the success of the boosting apprenticeships subsidy is Patriot Campers in Molendinar in my electorate. They have added two apprentices.
The upskilled educated workforce Australia needs comes from STEM opportunities for Australian women. Up to 600 Australian women will be encouraged to study science, technology, engineering and maths while they’re working, as part of the expansion of the Morrison government’s Women in STEM Cadetships and Advanced Apprenticeships Program. There are many programs that the Australian people haven’t heard about. Mainly we hear about JobKeeper, JobSeeker, the supplement, JobMaker and JobTrainer. We don’t hear about some of these other programs the government has in place, particularly this one. A total of 37 STEM courses were approved in the recent application round, including an associate degree of engineering; a diploma of applied data science; an advanced diploma of cybersecurity, which is a very relevant one; a diploma of science; and an associate degree in agribusiness, which is really important for the regions.
We have very many businesswomen in Moncrieff. Early Risers comes to mind. That’s an organisation in Moncrieff that has been engaging with me regarding the Boosting Female Founders Initiative. I was at a breakfast function close to International Women’s Day. There were very many women there very excited about the Boosting Female Founders Initiative. The Morrison government is supporting entrepreneurial women to build their businesses, to take on global markets and to create local jobs—and we want to see local jobs—with the opening of a new $11.6 million funding round for the initiative. I encourage women to take up this opportunity. Grants of between $25,000 and $400,000 are available to Australian startup businesses that are majority owned and led by women. This is $52.2 million of competitive grant funding, plus $1.8 million in mentoring services.
With many different programs at the federal level, constituents rightly wish to know how that translates to their local area. There are very many good examples of the Morrison government delivering for the good people of Moncrieff. There are too many to mention them all, but they include school programs. I have very many beautiful schools in Moncrieff, and I enjoy going to visit all of them. We also have local community fund grants that have been delivered to very many organisations across Moncrieff. I thank the community for the good work that they do to build stronger communities and for sticking together during this COVID-19 health and economic crisis that we have all been through and for the great work that those organisations do to hold everything together across the community. It’s very much appreciated.