In recent months, Bill Shorten has become a cult hero to Australian travel agents for his continued Government lobbying for industry recognition and financial support through COVID-19. On Monday his travel industry status got upgraded to “Platinum for life”. Here’s why.
Given the opportunity to speak without interruption, you can say a lot in five minutes. But the words you choose and how you deliver them will always define the level of your impact.
On Monday in the Federal chamber of Parliament, member for Maribyrnong and former Labor leader Bill Shorten delivered a rousing five-minute justification of why the travel industry and specifically travel agents must receive a federal support package post-JobKeeper’s ending on March 28 to stay afloat until the international borders can reopen.
Yet again, Mr Shorten showed that he has listened and is prepared to continue the fight for the travel industry.
Here’s Mr Shorten’s address in full:
“I’m speaking on this private member’s bill to support travel agents because it is time for Scott Morrison to wake up. Wake up to the fact that travel agents are doing it hard. I like every federal member of parliament am getting inundated by calls from travel agents, travel agencies, tour operators, especially but not just those who deal in international travel.
“Now JobKeeper, which the Morrison government introduced for travel agents, is a good thing. I’m not here to have Liberal versus Labor tit for tat. But on March 28, there is a crisis.
“The iceberg is going to hit the travel agency industry and tens of thousands of travel agents — predominantly women, predominantly small businesses — are about to hit that iceberg.
“The travel scheme that the government announced with much fanfare isn’t working the way it should. It’s red tape, too long, and because of the different accounting standards used within the travel agents industry, some people are getting decent support but a lot of others are missing out.
“What I want to do in parliament when I speak to Mr Morrison on behalf of travel agents is I want to use not my voice but the voices of the travel agents.
“I was just on the phone with a lovely travel agent before coming up here. She was in tears today because she’s got to retrench two of her six staff. She employs women, this is a business been going for 17 years. She said, “I don’t understand why it’s so cruel. I’ve got to lay them off now as my director’s duties because I don’t know if JobKeeper’s going to continue.”
“How is it that we can be so cruel to our travel agents? If the government is going to continue JobKeeper after March 28, just tell people, just tell people now. If you’re not going to, then you need to wake up to yourself.”
“The travel agents I speak to, they have recovered billions of dollars for their customers and their clients. That’s right, billions of dollars.
“Since March and February of last year when COVID hit and the international borders slammed shut, Australians had billions of dollars of holiday bookings. It hasn’t been the government chasing the money.
“It hasn’t been the Sheriff’s office chasing the money. It hasn’t been Mr Morrison chasing the money for the customers. It’s been, travel agents. What’s particularly cruel is that when they get the money back, they, of course, have to refund their commissions, in many cases.
“What we have today right now is that there are 40,000 people on the phones because the landlord wouldn’t extend their rent. They’ve had to give up their super, they’ve had to negotiate all sorts of difficult payments, and every day they are chasing refunds for clients. The travel agency industry, whilst travel has stopped, they haven’t stopped.
“Sometimes in politics, it’s not a matter of left or right, Labor or Liberal. Sometimes it’s just a matter of right and wrong. And this is wrong, what’s happening to travel agents. I don’t understand and why the government can’t see what needs to be done here. Until international borders are opened again, then travel agents should get JobKeeper, in my opinion.
“Until we don’t have states slamming up the borders and slamming down the borders, we need to have JobKeeper. We need a travel scheme which actually reflects that there are four different ways that the accounting industry calculates total turnover in the travel agency industry, which is the sweet spot for getting some government support.
“I just say to the government, this is not a matter of who’s right and who’s oppositional government. This is a matter of travel agents. I just want to give you some words from the people. One lady has written and said, “We’ve had volcanoes to deal with and we’ve had tsunamis, we have no complaints. But this is an issue which now the government needs to help us on.
“Another lady wrote to me and said, “Since international border closures, I’ve been working at least 30 hours a week, 7 days a week, handling cancellations, trying to obtain refunds. I’ve utilised all of my superannuation to survive upon, and loans which have to be repaid to family and friends. I need JobKeeper to continue.
“We’ve got a travel agent who said, “I attended a fight cancer foundation charity lunch the other day, normally held in December. 80 travel agents attended the lunch. You could cut the anxiety with a knife.
“The travel agents industry and tour operators, they feel deserted. They feel deserted and let down by their government. They feel that they’ve been thrown onto the garbage heap. They feel that perhaps the government thinks you can just go online or travel agents are a thing of the past. We’re not going to have overseas travel and recovery until we back our travel agents.”
“Please wake up, Mr Morrison. Save our travel agents.“
Mr Shorten, we salute you. Thank you on behalf of all Australian travel agents and the travel industry at large.
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