Feds swap border blockage stick for carrot

Business owners attempting to rebuild from the coronavirus recession are being offered cash incentives to host events.

The federal government has pledged $50 million to boost regional tourism through business conferences.

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the collapse of exhibitions and events had major knock-on effects.

“That spills over, not just to the events, but to the caterers, the cleaners, the people who build the exhibitions,” he said on Friday.

“We want people to plan with confidence into next year to make those bookings and we’re planning some financial support for them to do.”

Up to 95 per cent of business events for 2020 have either been cancelled or postponed.

Under the grants program, businesses exhibiting at approved events in 2021 will have half their costs covered.

But the incentive program is heavily reliant on people being able to travel, and most state borders remain closed.

Senator Birmingham called for a rethink of Queensland’s border restrictions after a Canberra woman was unable to attend her father’s funeral.

“If exemptions can’t be granted in those circumstances, someone needs to look again at the exercise of their exemption power,” he said.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who controls Australia’s hardline international border policies, said the interstate travel bans were having a profound effect.

“This indiscriminate application of the border restrictions is really having a very negative impact on people’s mental health and it is really devastating families,” he said.

“The reality for these people is that their lives are devastated, they will be scarred forever.”

With most interstate travel effectively banned, more people are taking holidays closer to home.

There was a $1 billion boost to regional tourism in June as restrictions on movement began to ease.

More than 5.4 million people took an intrastate trip during the month, an increase of more than 2.4 million visitors compared with May.

Senator Birmingham said the figures were a reminder of the potential for the tourism industry if border restrictions were loosened.

He again urged state and territory leaders to adopt a nationally consistent hotspot approach to the movement of Australians.

Victoria recorded 43 new coronavirus cases and nine deaths on Friday, pushing the national toll to 797.

Queensland reported another two new cases as health authorities confirmed they would allow four Sydney children into the state to visit their dying father, provided they all spent a fortnight in hotel quarantine.

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