Anthony Albanese has assured tourism operators and their workers fearing the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy that Labor is “on their side”.
The opposition leader is touring far north Queensland, where the tourism sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly by the closure of international borders.
Mr Albanese said tourism operators have been reliant on JobKeeper support the Morrison government is adamant will end in March as planned.
The Labor leader said wage subsidies are about maintaining a relationship between an employer and their workers.
“The cost of re-establishing a business, re-establishing that relationship is far higher in the long term than it is of keeping this assistance going, keeping workers connected to their employer,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Cairns on Sunday.
“I say to the tourism industry here we are on your side. I say to the workers here we are on your side. What we need is a government in Canberra that is also on their side.”
He warned unless some action is taken, more jobs will be lost, which will reduce economic activity in far north Queensland and make it very difficult to rebuild.
Virgin Australia has also flagged thousands of additional jobs could be lost at the airline when JobKeeper goes.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack concedes it has been difficult for people in the aviation sector and the situation is not helped when state borders are closed “at the drop of a hat”.
He said the government has already provided $2.7 billion worth of targeted assistance to the aviation sector, which has been very helpful for regional communities.
“That assistance has kept people in jobs,” Mr McCormack, who is also transport minister, told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
“Planes in the air means jobs on the ground.”
He said the government wants to make sure as many people as possible who work in the aviation sector have a job and will continue to do so.
“We have changed and tweaked and made sure we have had the right measures in place all right through COVID,” he said.
Asked if a targeted JobKeeper is being considered, Mr McCormack said the government continues to talk with airline chief executives.
“We’ll continue to have those conversations, we’ll continue to have the right assistance that you’d expect a good and reasonable government to do,” he said.