Premier to PM: Fate of thousands in your hands


Thousands of Queensland businesses are at risk of collapse within months if the Federal Government does not extend its JobKeeper payment beyond March, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says.

As Ms Palaszczuk met with Townsville and Cairns businesses crippled by COVID-19, she ramped up her calls for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to urgently reconsider scrapping the $1000 payment in March.

The calls come amid fears nearly 11,000 north Queensland businesses alone could fail, with the latest figures showing 170,000 businesses across the state are still drawing on the payments to survive.

But it is also feared those that do survive will only do so by slashing their workforces, pushing up the state's nation-leading unemployment rate of 7.5 per cent.

"If JobKeeper is cut in March, there's no doubt hundreds, if not thousands of tourism businesses will go under," Ms Palaszczuk said.


Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk meets with Cairns tourism leaders yesterday. Picture: Brendan Radke
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk meets with Cairns tourism leaders yesterday. Picture: Brendan Radke


"Regions like Cairns, the Whitsundays and the Gold Coast that rely on the tourism industry to stay afloat will be worst hit."

Ms Palaszczuk said ending JobKeeper before international borders were able to reopen would be a mistake.

Mr Morrison has previously rejected a widespread JobKeeper extension, but confirmed the Federal Government was considering extending support to hardest-hit sectors.

"We can't run the Australian economy on government money forever," he said earlier this month.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Mark Olsen said it was estimated 11,700 jobs would be impacted in the region if JobKeeper stopped.

"So what we can't see yet is whether the employers would put people on part time," he said.

"But at least half of those will be made redundant, and there will be a question for the other half over what levels of hours can be offered."

He said Australia would weaken its chances of recovery through international tourism if its tourism businesses were decimated during COVID-19.



Cairns Chamber of Commerce president Sally Mlikota tipped the region's tourism staff would be out of work if support was cut in March.

"There are a number of significant players in small and large tourism businesses who are doing it hard," she said.

"JobKeeper has sustained some businesses, and I think we'll see some of the tourism and very closely related sectors cutting staff.

"The Cairns Chamber of Commerce is urging the Federal Government to consider keeping JobKeeper, whether it's by industry sector or by postcode."

Cairns Airport welcomed just 196,000 domestic tourists in December, down from 346,000 a year earlier.

Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the looming expiry of JobKeeper weighed heavily on tourism operators.

"Industry-wide there's enormous concern and many sleepless nights about what comes next when the Federal Government cuts JobKeeper," he said.

"Tourism operators don't want to sack staff and they don't want to lose the businesses they've put years of hard work into building."








Originally published as Premier to PM: Fate of thousands in your hands

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