Travel ban threatens QLD jobspocalypse

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continues to face mounting pressure to open Queensland’s border to interstate tourists in time for the June school holidays. This comes as Palaszczuk has signalled that the state’s borders may not be reopened to interstate travellers until September.

The AFR reports today that Gold Coast hotels are facing a $6 billion wipeout and thousands of job losses if borders remain closed until September:

“We’re in a state of disbelief,” said Clarke, a Queensland hotel veteran of more than a decade. “The Gold Coast is one of the nation’s most popular tourism destinations, and we are haemorrhaging. Locking out domestic travellers until September is like putting a noose around the city’s neck. If you cut off the hand that feeds us, we’re done for.”

Indeed, a report released last week claimed the Gold Coast could lose 30,500 jobs by June, roughly 10% of the total, with other Queensland tourism hotspots also hemorrhaging:

The ID. group forecast, using figures from the National Institute for Economic and Industry Research, lists the Gold Coast as the worst hit regional city in Australia. It also details an expected $1.5 billion drop in gross regional product (GRP) for the quarter alone – a drop of 16.8 per cent.

The Gold Coast is followed by Cairns and the Sunshine Coast, who are also expected to lose more than 9 per cent of jobs.

Meanwhile, real unemployment in Cairns has already tripled to 18%, with an increase to 25% possible amid the domestic travel restrictions:

Economist Bill Cummings said the true numbers were far more serious than the “unreliable” ABS data sets – and that about one in four people in Cairns were likely unemployed or on the JobKeeper program right now.

“While there has been speculation about the likely impact on the region’s economy of the coronavirus restrictions, hard evidence is now starting to emerge,” he said.

“A massive increase has occurred in the number of people in the region on unemployment benefits – JobSeeker and Youth Allowance (Other) – as recorded by the Department of Social Services.

“The number has leapt from about 8400 in the region (4900 in the Cairns local government area, minus Babinda) in February to 23,000 in the region (15,000 in Cairns) in April.”

Economist Bill Cummings said the true numbers were far more serious than the “unreliable” ABS data sets – and that about one in four people in Cairns were likely unemployed or on the JobKeeper program right now.

“While there has been speculation about the likely impact on the region’s economy of the coronavirus restrictions, hard evidence is now starting to emerge,” he said.

“A massive increase has occurred in the number of people in the region on unemployment benefits – JobSeeker and Youth Allowance (Other) – as recorded by the Department of Social Services.

“The number has leapt from about 8400 in the region (4900 in the Cairns local government area, minus Babinda) in February to 23,000 in the region (15,000 in Cairns) in April”…

“It is quite possible that at present, at end May, there is of the order of 25 per cent either unemployed or only being in employment due to the JobKeeper program…

“The figures emphasise the massive damage being done to the region’s economy and the importance of lifting restraints as quickly as possible,” Mr Cummings said.

Keeping Queensland’s borders closed to other states does not make much sense given the low rate of transmission of COVID-19 throughout Australia:

The risk to Queenslanders from any significant exposure to interstate travelers appears modest.

Accordingly, the costs of keeping Queensland’s borders closed appear to far outweighs the benefits.

With Queensland’s state election due in late October, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk could face a vicious voter revolt from those adversely impacted by her draconian travel ban.

Leith van Onselen

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