Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has urged Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to extend the JobKeeper system beyond March 28 to prevent a catastrophic job cull among the tourism industry.

“The message is clear and simple. It’s not too late – extend JobKeeper now,” the Queensland Premier said.

The Federal Government has repeatedly said the JobKeeper program in its current form would end on March 28. An AUD$1.2 billion rescue package aimed at subsidising 800,000 airfares for Australians to take a holiday in one of 17 regional destinations has largely fallen flat in enthusiasm among the accommodation and hospitality sector as major cities and their significant tourism workforces were left largely ignored.

The end of JobKeeper may also be the end of tour operators in the Great Barrier Reef, the Premier suggested.

The package is aimed at getting more planes in the sky, which will bring more aviation workers back to their posts, however the looming threat of reactive border closures has largely spooked the majority of travellers from venturing outside of their home state for fear of having to enter enforced hotel quarantine.

Of the 17 approved destinations, five are in Queensland – Cairns, Townsville, Whitsundays (including Proserpine and Mackay), Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.

Premier Palaszczuk said it wasn’t too late for more targeted support for tourism operators hit hard by international border closures to be put forward to prevent employment in the sector falling off the proverbial cliff.

“I’m urging the Prime Minister and the Federal Treasurer to extend JobKeeper beyond March 28 for industries hardest hit by international border closures.

The Gold Coast was one of five destinations included on the Federal Government’s subsidised travel list.

“Without more targeted support for our tourism industry, we’ll see thousands of jobs lost in Cairns, the Whitsundays and the Gold Coast,” the Premier said.

“The support the Federal Government announced last week was good – but it’s not enough and it won’t go to those who are most in need.

“It won’t help the small, mum and dad businesses that are some of our biggest employers here in Queensland.”

Queensland Tourism Minister, Stirling Hinchcliffe, said the reality was the government’s industry rescue package will only benefit international airlines.

Cairns is one city in Queensland heavily reliant on international visitors.

“Other tourism operators, such as reef tour boats, will struggle to keep their staff on beyond the JobKeeper switch off,” he said. 

“Queensland tourism businesses need certainty and the ‘ticket to recovery’ the Federal Government said it would deliver.”

Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO, Daniel Gschwind, said a cash support program until international borders are reopened would be a lifeline to thousands of businesses which will be at risk from March 28.