By Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard
We’ve heard Federal Treasurer Frydenberg and Deputy Prime Minister McCormack state repeatedly that nationwide economic interventions like JobKeeper were only ever meant to be temporary.
With the national unemployment figure continuing to come down, and now below 6 percent, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
However, these nationwide interventions are being replaced by sector specific measures, targeted at those parts of the economy hardest hit by COVID-19 and continuing to feel its impact.
The travel and tourism industries have attracted support from both state and federal governments.
The Queensland Government announced $3 million would be spent on travel vouchers for anyone wanting to holiday in the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region.
The Australian Government is offering 800,000 half price airline tickets as part of a $1.2 billion package aimed stimulating the domestic travel trade.
Alongside tourism, horticulture too has been massively disrupted by COVID-19 and the changes in export routes and flows of workers.
In response to the dramatic reduction of airfreight options the Australian Government to date has stumped up $780 million in support through the International Freight Assistance Mechanism, which has been generous almost to a fault.
But it’s been the government responses to the ongoing critical shortage of seasonal workers that remain most under the spotlight, with their adequacy still in question.
The Federal Government is making direct investments in helping workers relocate to the regions and in allowing students to fast track themselves onto Youth Allowance through agriculture work, worth $17.4 million and $16.3 million respectively. Though the uptake of both these programs has reportedly been poor, and a review of their design is in order.
For their part, Minister Furner and the Queensland Government are hanging their hats on $1.1 million in funding, directed at local workforce initiatives run by industry groups, at their own worker relocation support scheme, and at the #PickQld campaign, designed to attract more domestic workers to Queensland farms.
It’s difficult putting a price on different industries, livelihoods and communities. And yet that’s the stage we’re at.
With limited funds available, it’s time for governments to pick winners among industries.
The contribution made by Queensland horticulture, not just to regional jobs and communities but to our national food supply, is priceless. We need coming state and federal budgets to reflect this fact.