Mayor Kerr expresses concern for local businesses


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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The end of JobKeeper and the COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane threatening Easter trade, has come as a double whammy to the tourism industry and Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr has expressed concern.
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Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said today he was concerned for local businesses last weekend when JobKeeper ceased; and now with the COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane, he has even more concerns.

“This is a clear example of what the concerns were. We risk losing many qualified and experienced staff which will be hard to regain at a later stage, unless these businesses either have strong business or government support,” he said.

The Federal Government have said that tens of thousands of new job opportunities will be created for apprentices and trainees across Australia with the expansion of the targeted wage subsidy program as part of the National Economic Recovery Plan.

“The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy program is fully subscribed, helping to create 100,000 apprenticeships in less than five months.

“The Program will now become demand driven and expanded for a full 12 months for new apprentices and trainees signed up prior to 30 September 2021.

“It is estimated that this demand driven expansion will generate around 70,000 new apprentice and trainee places, with the Government investing around $1.2 billion,” said a government media release.

Kerr told the Cairns Post Port Douglas faces a battle to retain tourism-specific staff due to the end of JobKeeper.

“Tour businesses have ground to a halt throughout the pandemic with many only able to keep staff on because of the subsidy.

“Cr Kerr feared many would be forced to shed staff after Sunday and was concerned their industry-specific skills would be lost to the area,” Kerr told the Cairns Post.

Kerr said while the $1.2bn support package from the federal government, cheap flights and travel vouchers were welcome, they were not enough to sustain tour operators surviving on JobKeeper.

But Kerr did express some optimism when he said it is clear that out leaders from all levels of government are well aware of the position that we and many other regions like us are in. 

“The Douglas region has had more visitation in the past couple months than it has had in years and I have been lucky enough to have already had the ear of the Prime Minister once and now the Premier on multiple occasions as well as many other ministers.

“I do believe that they are doing what they believe is the best that they can do and I certainly hope that it works for the majority as clearly there will be losers in this. Role on the vaccinations,” he said.

A wage subsidy is a payment to workers by the state, made either directly or through their employers. Its purposes are to redistribute income and to avoid the welfare trap attributed to other forms of relief, thereby reducing unemployment. It is most naturally implemented as a modification to the income tax system.

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