SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
17 MARCH 2021
Last month I met with a number of travel agents in my electorate of Isaacs in the South East of Melbourne. Like so many businesses in my electorate they have been utterly devastated by the Covid pandemic.
The stories I heard from these hard-working people were distressing.
When international and state borders abruptly closed to protect our community, they were hit earlier, and harder, than almost anyone else.
Businesses that took years to build into well-known and respected sources of advice and joyful experiences have been pushed to the brink.
The owners were in tears telling me how JobKeeper payments went entirely to supporting their employees. Unlike some large businesses that did very well through the pandemic, these travel agents did not syphon those payments into bonuses for themselves.
They told me how they spent their entire personal savings and borrowed more to keep their businesses afloat until Australians could once again travel.
But a year later, after being promised a tourism industry assistance package, their hopes were dashed when the Prime Minister instead announced what amounted to an airline assistance package directed at a limited number of destinations, far away from the community that I represent.
So one can well understand the distress of these hardworking business owners, and the workers who rely on them, as the JobKeeper cliff approaches.
Because the end of JobKeeper is totally out of step with the disappointingly slow start to the Morrison Government’s vaccine rollout.
Despite the Prime Minister’s promise of four million by the end of this month, only around 200,000 Australians have been vaccinated and we are still a long, long way from being able to freely travel again.
And when JobKeeper is cut off there is no way travel agents in my electorate, already on the brink of collapse, can continue to employ their staff.
And they won’t be alone.
Treasury postcode data shows that in Isaacs alone more than 4,000 businesses employing over 13,000 people are accessing JobKeeper right now.
The Treasurer himself says that more than a million Australians will still be on JobKeeper when it ends – that’s about one in ten of our nation’s workforce.
The Morrison Government intends to strip one million Australians of their only means of employment support, during a pandemic, with no plan for good, secure, well paid jobs to replace it.
No Australian Government should do such a thing.
We expect, and deserve, better, much better than this.