The NSW Premier, Sky Australia hosts, and other commentators have been quick to criticise Queensland Premier Palaszczuk over her call for the federal government to extend JobKeeper beyond the end of March for struggling tourism-dependent businesses, particularly those in Cairns and the Whitsundays. Given she backed some questionable decisions by Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young regarding interstate borders, the Premier certainly deserves some criticism, but we need to recognise two things:
- the continuing hardship faced by many tourism-dependent businesses is also related to the international border closure, and
- the Premier is correct to highlight the financial stresses that tourism-dependent businesses still face and the desirability of extending assistance in some form.
On the first point, consider Cairns’s large dependence on international tourism (accounting for nearly half of visitor nights in a typical year) in the chart below.
On the second point, consider the data reported in the Brisbane Times on Thursday:
Treasury data showed Cairns was most at risk of business collapse if JobKeeper payments were axed in March.
More than 3660 Cairns business were signed up to the scheme, 400 more than in Brisbane’s CBD and almost 600 more than Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast.
The JobKeeper by postcode data, which the Treasury really needs to update so they’re more recent, are presented in the chart below for the top 20 postcodes in Australia. The postcode 4870 covers Cairns.
The federal government is right to be concerned about the ongoing cost of JobKeeper and the fast-growing national debt, but I suspect it will have no choice but to provide some limited extension to JobKeeper for struggling tourism-dependent businesses, possibly in the form of a HECS-type income-contingent loan. On this, see my post from last Saturday: