Queenslanders are waiting anxiously for the state government’s COVID media conference this morning, to learn what’s happening with the infection of the doctor at the PA Hospital. Let’s hope our authorities take into account the fact the vaccine is being rolled out and don’t impose an economically costly lockdown on Greater Brisbane. The prospect of a new lockdown would be terrifying for businesses which are facing the end of JobKeeper later this month. There is widespread concern that the small package of measures replacing JobKeeper, dubbed PlaneKeeper by some critics, is insufficient to prevent a large number of job losses in tourism, accommodation, and hospitality in the next few months.
Yesterday afternoon, I spoke with Far North Queensland-based economist Pete Faulkner of Conus Business Consultancy Services about what the end of JobKeeper means for the Cairns economy, and you can listen to our conversation via the player on the website above or via this link. The Cairns economy of course was highly dependent on international tourism and Cairns has had a high proportion of its workforce supported by JobKeeper.
Will the subsidised flights and concessional loans be enough to prevent further job losses in the Cairn region, which has already been badly affected by the COVID-recession (see Pete’s chart below)? Probably not. Pete thinks there’s still 11,000 to 12,000 people in Cairns reliant on JobKeeper, and a substantial percentage of those people (30-40%) could lose their jobs when JobKeeper ends. Regarding the federal government’s latest assistance package, Pete notes: “we’re talking about a very small drop in a very large ocean in terms of support that the tourism sector is going to need.”
Finally, I should note it’s not just in Cairns that there are concerns about job losses when JobKeeper ends, as it’s looking likely we’ll see job losses in tourism-dependent businesses across Australia, particularly in hotels which have been struggling with low occupancy rates due to the closure of the international border to tourists and suppressed interstate travel.
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