News & Events

McGowan Must Act Now Or The Virus Could Cripple WA's Economy

11 March 2020

With coronavirus, bushfires, declining property prices and skyrocketing costs of living, it’s no wonder the WA business community and the tourism industry are wary of the future. Sadly, it’s only going to get worse unless proper action is taken now.

As the Shadow Minister for Small Business and Tourism, I’ve heard from operators who report significant losses as a direct result of coronavirus. An up and coming scenic flight operator in WA’s north told me they lost $300,000 over the Chinese New Year alone, while larger and more established operators estimate their losses are closer to $500,000.

Following news that the China Southern flights have been put on hold until June, the fear is that we’ll see further decline in international flights and event cancellations. Just this week, British comedian Russell Brand pulling out of his Perth show amid coronavirus fears.

Fewer visitors to WA doesn’t just hurt our tourism operators. It means fewer dollars are being handed over the counter at our retail outlets, restaurants and pubs. On Tuesday, the iconic Fremantle brewery Little Creatures reported 300 cancellations over three events due to restrictions on travel. That’s a lot of money going unspent and not moving through our State’s economy, increasing the risk of more business closures and job losses.

No Government could predict the coronavirus. But it’s the McGowan Government’s responsibility to the West Australian people to respond effectively.

Following this summer’s bushfires, the Federal Government announced a $76 million tourism package to assist fire-affected regions. As the coronavirus spreads and talk of a recession grows, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an infrastructure stimulus package.

The Commonwealth’s measures are welcome, but in a time when swift action to help the economy is essential, the State Government has gone missing.

While the McGowan Government finally set up three COVID 19 clinics this week, it came a month too late according to Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller.

Meanwhile, there have been no announcements to explain how the State Government is going to support small business and tourism operators affected by these dual crises. The Premier is apparently ‘seriously considering’ bringing his payroll tax policy forward, which I would welcome.

However to make a true economic impact and create new jobs, the policy must go much further and try to undo some of the damage the McGowan government has already done.

This is the Government that increased household bills by $850, reducing people’s ability to go out and spend their money at local small businesses. Premier McGowan botched the job on international students and cost the State economy about $130 million when he asked for Perth to be reclassified under the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme. They’ve also failed to act on the retail crime plaguing our CBD and suburban shopping precincts.

We’ve seen shop after shop close and I’ve heard countless stories from business owners who are struggling to stay afloat and have had to let staff go to survive.

With the local economy being what it is, I can’t help but wonder how everyone who has lost their job or had their hours cut is going to pay their mortgage. It’s particularly scary given the number of homes that are now worth less than the mortgages owed on them. One in 20 families in Byford, in my electorate, are now in arrears on their loans.

There are solutions, but they require political will. When coronavirus passes, we need something to entice visitors back to WA and restore confidence in our local market. It’s time for the McGowan Government to invest in infrastructure that supports tourism and leverages our existing assets.

They also need to put more work into securing major events to encourage visitors and there needs to be a plan to support small business through this difficult time. We currently have Rally Australia up for grabs and I know the Red Bull Air Race is also champing at the bit for a return. Now is not the time to turn these events away. We need to grab them with both hands if we are serious about supporting our tourism and small business sector.

All of this work takes time, so it must start now. If Premier McGowan and his Government fail to act, the coronavirus may prove to be the final nail in our economic coffin.

 

Alyssa Hayden MLA
Shadow Minister for Tourism; Small Buisness

As seen in The West, 12 March 2020