‘Big trouble’: Scary prediction for Aussies

A war of words is brewing between tourism industry groups and the federal government surrounding Australia’s international border reopening as experts predict businesses are in “big trouble”.

Frustrated by the lack of clear advice over the ever-changing timeline, the head of Australia’s Tourism and Transport Forum appeared on TV on Monday calling for clarity after what the group described as the “worst year in living memory for the tourism industry”.

It comes as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg signalled ahead of tomorrow’s federal budget that international travel will remain closed, with the border shut down until at least next year.

A frustrated CEO Margy Osmond appeared on the ABC and said she was frustrated by “too much speculation” surrounding an opening.

She said the issue for businesses in the industry is that they are “completely at the behest of government” and demanded a clear calendar based around Australia’s vaccination program of when borders might open.

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A Qantas aircraft at Sydney Airport. Picture: James GourleySource:News Corp Australia

International border closures are forecast to cost the nation at least $17bn due to the botched vaccine rollout – but the damage bill could climb frighteningly higher.

The cost to the economy incurred by Australia’s isolation from the rest of the world is a whopping $203m a day, according to new modelling by the McKell Institute.

“It’s just too hard for the industry at this point in time when we have no certainty over dates,” Ms Osmond told Michael Rowland.

A campaign aiming for a targeted industry support package from the government and headed by the tourism group said 500,000 full-time jobs have already been lost.

“If there is no additional Government support beyond March when the JobKeeper Wage Subsidy ends, another 300,000 will be gone by September,” it predicted.

In an interview with News Corp last weekend, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians had no “appetite” for borders reopening and understood the virus “isn’t going anywhere”.

“We have to be careful not to exchange that way of life for what everyone else has,” he said.

“All I know is once you let it back in … you cannot get it out. You’ve crossed that threshold. You move into another dimension.”

On Monday, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham cautioned that there are “many uncertainties” as the Morrison Government works on a road map to reopening, warning it could be the second half of 2022 until travel resumes.

“Border closures have been, arguably, the single biggest factor in keeping COVID out of Australia and in doing so, not just saving Australian lives, but saving Australian jobs,’’ Senator Birmingham said.

“We are going to maintain those tough border settings until it is clearly safe for us to do so. “Where we take cautious steps, as we have done with New Zealand, it will be on health advice.

“Right now, sadly, it’s a bit of a grim picture in some parts of the world. That means it will be a very cautious approach.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: Philip GostelowSource:Supplied

Ms Osmond warned a large part of the tourism industry – up to 70 per cent – is completely exposed to the international market”.

“They’ve got nowhere to go,” she said.

“There’s only so long you can hang from the fly screen doors. We’re going to see an awful lot more failures and I think that is a critical outcome because when we do finally open the door to international tourists again, what on earth are they going to do? Hardly any of those attractions will still be there.”

She said while the New Zealand travel bubble was a hopeful sign, “there’s not an awful lot of travelling dollars in that exercise”.

The federal government initially set a target that every Australian would be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October, and major airlines such as Qantas based their relaunching of international services around that timeline.

Last week Qantas boss Alan Joyce said the airline’s hopes may be dashed, but warned Australia risks becoming a “hermit state” if borders remain shut for too long.

However, supply issues and concerns about the risk of rare blood clotting from the AstraZeneca vaccine in those younger than 50 prompted the government to abandon any immunisation deadline.

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