First Trans-Tasman Flight Proposal
The opening of the Trans-Tasman bubble to allow Australians and New Zealanders to move freely between countries is proposed to begin with a symbolic pilot flight between capital and sisters cities Canberra and Wellington in July.
The Australian Chamber Tourism, Canberra Airport, Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Canberra Business Chamber and Auckland Business Chamber have united to create a proof of concept proposal for the first post-COVID-19 flight.
Migration & Visas
Migration & Visas
ACCI continues to appeal to the acting Minister for Immigration Alan Tudge over the current support issues for visa holders, and businesses engaged with the migration program.
There were four key issues raised:
- The need for temporary skilled migrants to be eligible for the JobKeeper payment;
- The importance of providing some welfare support for out-of-work temporary migrants who are stranded here;
- The need to provide some payment support for international students who will find it difficult to meet basic accommodation and food costs without access to the usual part time work that supplements them;
- The need for refunds where businesses made successful visa applications but the workers were not able to travel due to the restrictions.
Travel & Airlines
Travel & Airlines
Federal Government Guarantees Domestic Aviation Support:
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack announced a significant investment of up to an initial $165 million to ensure that airlines operate a minimum domestic network servicing for essential metropolitan and regional routes in Australia.
This network includes all state and territory capital cities and major regional centres, including, Albury, Alice Springs, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Kalgoorlie, Mildura, Port Lincoln, Rockhampton, Tamworth, Townsville and Wagga Wagga. These arrangements will be in place for an initial eight weeks and will be monitored to determine if greater action is needed. The Minister released a statement on the support for the domestic aviation network today, find it here.
Travel from NZ resumes today
Today we welcome the first arriving passengers from New Zealand into Sydney since the commencement of COVID restrictions who will not have to quarantine. It has been a long time coming and is welcome by business, families visiting friends and relatives as well as freeing up places in quarantine. Tourism businesses will be beneficiaries, but it will be somewhat limited until NZ also allows returning travellers to arrive back in NZ without quarantine.
ACCI has been in talks with government including this week at the highest levels in the Prime Minister’s office to seek greater certainty in travel commencement with countries at low COVID risk. It was pleasing to hear the PM in his media conference today talk about a traffic light system such as ACCI has been advocating, and also the potential in a few months’ time for corporate travellers to put in place COVIDSafe quarantine arrangements.
Border openings bring some good news for Tourism
It has been a long time coming and has not gone far enough, but the lifting of some border restrictions in the past week has provided good news for tourism in amongst the bad. Over the last 10 days, Australian Chamber Tourism as issued three media releases commenting on the important changes made including the initial opening of the SA border to air travellers from the ACT, then announcements from the national cabinet including around quarantine caps and possible air travel to New Zealand and yesterday welcoming the opening of SA to NSW residents. Although regrowth in domestic interstate tourism will be critically important, it will not be enough to replace the revenue from higher-yielding international tourism, and the Tourism Restart Taskforce this week wrote to the PM seeking a meeting to discuss the what further support is needed for tourism businesses and a timetable and process for reopening international travel.
Australian Chamber – Tourism congratulates the NSW Premier on lifting restrictions on regional travel from 1 June. The tourism operators across the state of NSW will now be able to begin the restart out of COVID 19.
The Chamber’s Tourism Restart Taskforce identified the lifting of travel restrictions and opening of state borders as one of the country’s highest priorities.
“The NSW announcement goes a long way towards achieving that outcome by the target date of the June long weekend,” Australian Chamber – Tourism chair John Hart said.
“We urge other states to follow the NSW lead and restart their tourism sector. With 56 per cent of the $80 billion generated in domestic tourism overnight spend coming from interstate travel, any hope we have of seeing the sector revived relies on breaking down our state border restrictions.”
“It is now critically important that Governments open state borders. Australian tourism cannot effectively restart until Australians can visit their favourite holiday destinations. Domestic tourism needs to fill the gap created by absent international visitors. That cannot happen in any significant way if the state borders are closed.
“750,000 Australian jobs are on the line. In Queensland alone there are 217,000 people directly employed in tourism, so to have that state shut off from the rest of the country is going to compound our country’s devastating unemployment figures.”
“The most desirable destinations for Australians to travel in the cooler months are those that are still closed to interstate visitors. The accommodation venues, restaurants and tourist attractions in Cairns, Broome and Darwin need visitors from our larger states to survive.
“Our health response to COVID has put Australia in a fantastic position to move on this. The cases that are still coming to light are in tight clusters and are being well managed. These few cases should not be seen as the reason why we are denying Australians the opportunity to travel and for businesses to start operating safely and creating the jobs Australia so desperately needs.”
The Tourism Restart Taskforce is providing advice to Governments on the key issues that will impact the restart of tourism.
Tourism Restart Taskforce Established
A Tourism Restart Taskforce has been established by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry under the auspices of the Australian Chamber – Tourism.
These are by far and away the most challenging times travel and tourism has faced in the last 70 years or more and there is much to be gained by compiling and advocating strong ideas on how best to get tourism moving again.
Aus Chamber – Tourism will also be facilitating similar discussions through the tourism committee and ensuring a valuable ideas exchange between the groups to strengthen the outcomes from both.
The members of the Taskforce are as follows:
- Jeremy Johnson - ACCI Board, former CEO Sovereign Hill (Chair)
- The Hon. Martin Ferguson - Tourism Accommodation Australia
- Bob East - Tourism Australia
- Sarina Bratton - Ponant, CLIA
- Denis Pierce - ATEC
- Jacqui Walshe - The Walshe Group, ATEC
- Nikki Govan - Star of Greece, Business SA
- Graham (Skroo) Turner - Flight Centre, AFTA
- The Hon. Bruce Baird - Business Events Sydney, TTF
- Geoff Donaghy - CEO, ICC Sydney
- John Hart - Australian Chamber – Tourism
The Taskforce will feed into the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission and the Austrade Tourism Incident Response Coordination group. Through ACCI it will feed into the Business Liaison Group in Treasury and the Department of Industry recovery group.
Federal Government Guarantees Domestic Aviation Support
Earlier today, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack announced a significant investment of up to an initial $165 million to ensure that Qantas and Virgin Groups operate a minimum domestic network servicing for essential metropolitan and regional routes in Australia. This network includes all state and territory capital cities and major regional centres, including, Albury, Alice Springs, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Kalgoorlie, Mildura, Port Lincoln, Rockhampton, Tamworth, Townsville and Wagga Wagga. For the complete list of routes included in the domestic aviation network, please see below. These arrangements will be in place for an initial eight weeks and the Government will continue to review and monitor the market to determine if greater action is needed. The Minister released a statement on the support for the domestic aviation network today, find it here.
JobKeeper and Tourism Support
Of the three tranches of stimulus and support announced by the Government to date, the new Jobkeeper allowance will be the most beneficial for tourism, given the large number of businesses that have closed down or have all but closed down. These businesses would in almost all cases meet the 30% or 50% revenue down eligibility criteria. Having the allowance accessible for large businesses is also a major step forward given the fact that many larger businesses in tourism are a critical part of the offering to tourists or the supply chain. The inclusion of casuals in the wage subsidy is also particularly beneficial. There are many issues of detail relating to the JobKeeper payment that will come out over the next few days and we will be interpreting the information of benefit to members as it unfolds.
Tourism and Events Hardest Hit
There is no doubt that travel, tourism and hospitality have borne the immediate brunt of the travel bans, isolation and social distancing measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Australian Chamber - Tourism has been in constant contact with the Tourism Minister and the PMO to look at how to best support businesses during the impact period so that they remain in business for the recovery.
Last week's decision by COAG to put a stop to all non-essential events where 500 or more were gathering has seen thousands of events cancelled, anything from the major sporting events to the local agricultural show. The event companies, the carnival operators and other event-dependent businesses have lost up to 100% of their revenue overnight. Cancelled conferences and exhibitions are also hurting associations as well as event businesses
With tourism, it has been more gradual, but not by much due to the rapid change in travel arrangements. The global travel industry is predicting that a number of airlines will fail, and certainly others are already grounding aircraft and flying with only a small number of passengers. Revenue for tour and transport operators, travel agents, cruise operators, hotels, restaurants and many more has dived. Job losses in these sectors will be huge. Different and stronger stimulatory responses from government will be needed if these businesses and the jobs they support are to survive beyond the crisis.
Temporary Visa Changes and Update
Over the weekend the Australian Government, through acting Immigration Minister Allan Tudge, made some announcements concerning temporary visa holders and the impact of COVID-19. Despite calls for temporary migrants, particularly from business their temporary skilled migrants, to have access to either the JobKeeper payment or Jobseeker allowance, the Government affirmed the position that with the exception of New Zealanders, these migrants will not have access to either support payments. The key message of the announcement was that migrants not able to support themselves in Australia should make arrangements to return home.
There were a few changes announced that could assist temporary migrants remaining here:
- International Students who have been here longer than 12 months who find themselves in financial hardship will be able to access their Australian superannuation.
- Students working in aged care and as nurses can work longer than the 40 hours per fortnight, but the same extension granted for working in supermarkets will be discontinued on 1 May.
- Temporary graduate visa holders will also be able to access their superannuation if needed for support.
- Holders of either the 2 year or 4 year temporary skilled visa who have been stood down, but not laid off, will maintain their visa validity and businesses will have the opportunity to extend their visa as per normal arrangements. Businesses will also be able to reduce the hours of the visa holder without the person being in breach of their visa condition. These visa holders will also be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation this financial year.
- Working holiday makers who are working in heath, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing, and childcare will be exempt from the six month work limitation with the one employer and eligible for a further visa to keep working in these critical sectors if their current visa is due to expire in the next six months.
The Government also announced that to meet the needs of agriculture in response to no new working holiday makers arriving in Australia, two important changes have been made:
- The Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme workers can extend their stay for up to 12 months to work for approved employers (ensuring pastoral care and accommodation needs of workers are met to minimise health risks to visa holders and the community). Approved employers under the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme will need to continue engaging with the Department of Education, Skills and Employment on labour market testing to ensure recruitment of Australians first.
- Working Holiday Makers (WHMs) who work in agriculture or food processing will be exempt from the six month work limitation with the one employer and eligible for a further visa to keep working in these critical sectors if their current visa is due to expire in the next six months. Conditions will be placed upon visa holders to self-isolate for 14 days before taking up employment in a different region (including termination of visas where there is non-compliance). Employers will need to commit to providing safe accommodation for agricultural workers that complies with social distancing requirements.
Responding to ACCI’s request, the Department has updated their website to make it easier to find out information about how the COVID-19 crisis impacts visa holders.
The Dept of Home Affairs has updated the COVID19 visa information (here).
The Job Keeper allowance has posed other questions about temporary visa holders as they are not eligible, and puts more pressure on the need to know what the social welfare supports will be should they be out of work.
Can there be an additional exemption to the current travel restrictions for health professionals on TSS visas to re-enter the country subject to the 14-day self-isolation that applies to residents and citizens. We are aware of a number of nurses who are currently stranded overseas and expected back to work in the following weeks. Could this be extended allow additional TSS applications for health professionals?
The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF) will consider additional exemptions in relation to the current travel ban for people with critical skills (such as medical specialists, engineers, marine pilots and crews)
Has the refugee intake program completely stopped – what is a good contact for businesses working in the settlement sector?
On 16 March 2020 the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees temporarily suspended resettlement travel for refugees. At this stage, we do not know when travel will start again.
People who hold a Global Special Humanitarian (subclass 202 or SHP) visa may travel to Australia, subject to the availability of flights. They must arrange their own travel. On arrival in Australia they will be subject to current quarantine and isolation rules.
The best business contact- HSP@homeaffairs.gov.au
I am needing to permanently close my business, what are my ongoing obligations to my temporary visa holder who my business has sponsored?
Employers sponsoring overseas workers must advise the Department in writing, when certain events occur like business shutdown.
More information on sponsorship obligations can be found here:
- Sponsorship obligations for Standard business
- Sponsorship obligations for Temporary activity sponsor
Can the work hour limitations places on international students be extended beyond supermarkets to other critical industries such as health or cleaning?
Extended work hours for supermarkets, aged care and nursing. The Department of Home Affairs has put together a list of all the entities which are eligible to access the temporary relaxation of working hours.
Can visas be extended for international students who were otherwise due to have their visas expiring between now and the 30th June 2021?
Student visas can’t be extended. The student will need to apply for a new visa. You should apply for a new Student visa six weeks before your existing Student visa expires. There is no need to provide evidence of impacts of COVID-19 with your Student visa application.
COVID-19 and the impact on visa holders
Home Affairs has updated their website which provides information about COVID-19 and the impact on visa holders. The Government has expanded its arrangements to allow extra hours for students beyond supermarkets into aged care.
They have also made an announcement about visa holders who become unemployed accessing welfare support. These were issues raised at the first meeting.
The website will be updated daily to provide the necessary guidance to visa holders and employers.