By Bassel Tallal, National General Manager for Advocacy and Public Policy
October Federal Budget
This week the Albanese Government released its first budget. The Government is backing in the Accommodation Association by committing to expanding the “Hub” platform operated by us to connect people to vacancies, offering skills development and showcasing career pathways in tourism. This is a budget measure aimed at helping address workforce and skills shortages there is an allocation of $48 million over 4 years from 2022–23 to support recruitment and marketing in the tourism and travel sectors, and for infrastructure upgrades for caravan parks. This reflects the Labor Party’s pre-election tourism commitment.
Accommodation Australia and Tourism Accommodation Australia have been working closely with Government and relevant Departments to raise awareness of the massive skills gap and workforce challenges confronting the sector.
“This is a very welcome shot in the arm for one of the most important sectors driving Australia’s economic recovery, our Visitor Economy. We look forward to continuing to work with the Government as we rebuild together” Leanne Harwood, Accommodation Association of Australia President
This is a significant win for our members and we look forward to working with you all as we expand the program to attract new talent and support you in your recovery.
Towards 2032 - Reshaping Queensland's visitor economy to welcome the world
There is a lot of activity in Queensland that the Association has been engaging with, a Tourism Industry Reference Panel was established in March 2021 to review Queensland’s visitor economy. The reference panel recently released its report with 75 recommendations, two recommendations have caused great concern within the Association about the potential impact on our members and which we believe will set back Queensland’s Tourism sector. Recommendation 65 and 66 proposes a Legislative change to provide local governments with the ability to implement a ‘visitor levy’ or ‘Bed Tax’.
We have written to and met with the Queensland Government regarding our opposition to these recommendations, in our engagements the Association discussed that we believe that this is not a sensible policy on any level for a range of reasons, including:
- It would do the opposite of the vision of the reference panel to turn QLD into a destination of choice for domestic and global visitors, from experience we know it will immediately dampen critical intrastate visitor demand as well as interstate and international demand over the longer term at a time when Accommodation and Tourism are slowly but gradually rebuilding visitor numbers from the unprecedented lows of the past three years.
- It would disincentivise local investment activity as investors look elsewhere to more favourable overall tax environments to plan and build tourism related investments and grow jobs.
- Tourists to Australia already pay a direct tourism tax in the form of the Passenger Movement Charge as well as a range of other taxes such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which clearly collects for the services of accommodation.
- Accommodation operators already pay increased commercial rates to fund council tourism promotion amongst other activities. They pay very high commissions to travel agents and tour operators that generate traffic to their hotel but indirectly to every other tourism business in the area.
We will continue our engagement as the Government takes its time to consider the full report and all recommendations.
Queensland government moves to investigate impacts of the short-term rental market
We also took the opportunity to continue our advocacy around the impact of short-term letting on our industry and workforce. The impact now goes beyond just levelling the playing field, short-term letting is contributing negatively to the housing crisis and impacting our members, especially in regional areas, attracting talent. We requested that the Queensland Government to look at establishing a code of conduct for short-term rental providers, apply affective caps that provide a delineation of those operating full time accommodation outlet in residential premises and establish a state-wide compulsory registration system.
Since our engagement the Queensland Government announced that they will commission industry experts to investigate impacts the short-term rental market is having on the state’s housing supply. In the announcement the Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning Steven Miles said concerns had been raised the number of properties placed on short-term rental sites such as AirBnB and Stayz was worsening the current tight rental market.
The Deputy Premier went on to say
“This work will provide some detailed analysis into the positive and negative impacts of short-term rental accommodation on housing affordability and availability, the tourism industry, property owners and Queensland’s cities and regional communities.”
The Queensland Government hopes the research will be completed by the end of 2022, we look forward to contributing to the study and the impact short-term letting has on our members and their staff. We’re hoping that this will also act as a blueprint for other jurisdictions who are slow to act to start addressing the impacts, we will certainly not be holding back in our advocacy across Australia.
Jobs and Skills Summit outcomes
The Albanese Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit was held in late September, with 36 immediate outcomes and a pathway for dealing with larger issues in the medium and long term outlined. Some of the initial outcomes and actions included:
- increasing the permanent Migration Program to 195,000 in 2022 23 and providing $36.1 million in additional funding to accelerate visa processing and resolving the visa backlog;
- a $1 billion one-year National Skills Agreement to fund fee-free TAFE in 2023 and accelerating the delivery of 465,000 additional fee free TAFE places, with 180,000 to be delivered next year;
- requiring businesses with 100 employees or more to publicly report their gender pay gap to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency;
- establishing Jobs and Skills Australia to advise on workforce planning; and
As foreshadowed at the Summit, the government has now begun consultations on industrial relations reforms with legislation expected by the end of the year. The broader focus now also turns to the development of an Employment White Paper which will tackle systemic issues relating to migration reform, better alignment of the university and VET sectors, childcare and paid parental leave, and reducing barriers to employment for the most disadvantaged.