Premier slams PM over unfair, offensive JobKeeper extension
Thousands of airline workers have been granted a wage support lifeline but the move has been slammed by tourism operators who face losing their JobKeeper payments in just over a week.
The move to offer about 8000 Australian international aviation workers a seven-month extension of wage relief ignited a fresh call from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for the scheme to be extended to the whole tourism industry, which is predicting up to 25,000 job losses in Queensland alone once the payment subsidy ends on March 28.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce on Thursday provided details of the $500 a week "direct support payment" to employees at a town-hall meeting in Sydney, describing the allowance as the "centrepiece" of the federal government's $1.2bn aviation support package designed to help airlines survive until the COVID vaccine rollout is complete.
Only Australian-based employees stood down due to the lack of international flying are expected to be eligible for the payment which will continue until borders reopen, tipped to occur in late October.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack on Thursday said the airline support was 'not a continuation of JobKeeper', but it will top up the bank accounts of aviation employees by $500 a week while other tourism workers receive nothing.
Ms Palaszczuk said it was unacceptable that one struggling industry would continue to receive support while another missed out.
"The Prime Minister can't cherry pick who he wants to support and who he doesn't," she said.
"Small businesses in the tourism industry have been some of the hardest hit during the pandemic - what about them?
"The same should apply to the whole tourism industry while international remain closed.
"I'm calling on the Prime Minister to extend JobKeeper for the entire tourism industry."
Her comments were backed by Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind.
"We're happy for the aviation industry but we have always maintained the argument that the same thing (impact from loss of international travel) applies to thousands of tourism businesses," he said.
"We are afraid that jobs and people will be lost to the industry and many operators will feel let down that another sector will continue to receive support while they won't."
Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe described the decision to offer JobKeeper to the aviation sector but not other tourism businesses as 'insulting'.
"For months, the Treasurer has said it's too expensive (to offer a JobKeeper extension)," he said.
"Now that we read the fine print we find that..... he excluded thousands of small operators who will struggle to keep their doors open in 10 days.
"It's an insult."
Far north Queensland depends on international travel more than any other part of the state, with some operators relying on overseas visitors for 90 per cent of their revenue.
The iconic Skyrail cableway has made a commitment to keep all staff on their current pay rates as long as possible, but general manager Richard Berman-Hardman said there were already fears some workers would look to other industries with better job security.
Experience Co runs several reef tourism businesses in Cairns and CEO John O'Sullivan said he hoped reforms made before COVID would help protect the company from further job losses.
Originally published as Premier slams PM over unfair and offensive JobKeeper extension