The Queensland Premier’s plea for an extension to JobKeeper to support the Sunshine State’s ailing tourism sector has yet again been rejected, with federal tourism minister Dan Tehan heaping the industry’s struggles on Annastacia Palaszczuk’s tough border policies.
On Thursday, the premier asked the prime minister “as a matter of urgency” to extend the wage subsidy support scheme past its March deadline for industries doing it tough.
“It would be a mistake to take it away completely before international borders are able to safely reopen,” she tweeted.
“Regions such as Cairns, the Whitsundays and the Gold Coast that rely on tourism will be the worst hit.”
But Mr Tehan echoed the sentiment of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and other senior Liberal figures who declared Ms Palaszczuk was a “victim of her own policy”, blaming stubbornly tough border closures amid the coronavirus outbreak for the loss to tourism operators.
“We want to do, is we want to make sure that the states play their part,” the tourism minister told ABC Breakfast on Sunday morning.
“And the Queensland Premier, along with other state and territory leaders, could really play an influential role by getting consistency around hotspot definitions and border closures.
“If the Queensland Premier could play her part in that, that would be wonderful for the Queensland tourism industry. And if we could get that consistency, that would provide certainty to the sector.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed “there is no intention to extend JobKeeper” and mocked Ms Palaszczuk’s request as cheeky “to put it lightly”.
“The Morrison Government has delivered more than three times the amount of money to Queenslanders than the Annastacia Palaszczuk government has even committed to,” he told ABC’s Insiders.
“So I’d welcome the State Government in Queensland making more of a commitment.”
But when the treasurer was challenged on the Sunshine State’s reliance on international travel and the federal government’s knee-jerk reaction to close the borders to New Zealand recently, he offered the same reasoning Ms Palaszczuk has consistently leaned on.
“That was based on the advice of the AHPPC (Australian Health Protection Principal Committee) and it was a unified approach by the central body involving the states as well,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“But when it comes to domestic tourism and those borders, I was speaking to Alan Joyce (Qantas chief executive) who told me that in January, and for that January period, Qantas and Jetstar cancelled 1500 flights, 200,000 passenger bookings.
“That’s more than $200 million into Queensland alone. That’s Gold Coast, Hamilton Island.
“These are tourist destinations in Queensland where more than 200,000 passengers had their bookings cancelled because of those border restrictions that the premier put in place at the end of December.”
Queensland recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.