By: Fabian Cotter, Photography by: Fabian Cotter + various

AN EXTENSION of “at least six months” to the Federal Government’s JobKeeper scheme is being sought for the Long Distance, Tourist and Charter (LDTC) sector by the Bus Australia Network (BAN) - a collective industry entity - it’s been revealed.

Additionally, the BAN asks that any Federal Government stimulus for the tourism industry include direct financial assistance to bus and coach operators, who are dependent on international and domestic tourists.

In correspondence dated 30 June, 2020, and issued to the Hon. Michael McCormack MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, the network is seeking for JobKeeper to be extended, "…for at least six months beyond September 27, 2020 in order to get through the December 2020 – February 2021 school holiday period, where there are minimal school extracurricular activities to generate business for this sector of the industry."

"An extension of JobKeeper will enable these operators, who are mainly small and medium-sized businesses, to endure the Covid-19 crisis longer and have an opportunity to recommence commercial operations during the second quarter of 2021."

The Bus Australia Network represents a substantial number of bus and coach operators that provide long-distance, tourist and charter services, it explains. BAN is an umbrella title for the following bus organisations: the Bus Industry Confederation (BIC), BusNSW, BusSA, BusVic, QBIC, TasBus and BusWA.



As the document highlights, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a massive disruption to this "non-contracted" sector of the industry, with state government restrictions on movement and gatherings, and border closures, contributing to a substantial downturn.

"These operators are not protected by funding linked to state government contracts and generally have a substantial investment in assets including buses and depots," it states.

"The cancellation of airline services, cruise ships, major events and transport for school, pensioner and social groups has left these operators and their employees in a precarious situation.

"As a result, most operators have put their businesses into hibernation and are acutely concerned about their ability to recommence operations and remain viable - thousands of drivers have been stood down and hundreds of vehicles have been deregistered," it adds.

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JobKeeper has served an extremely useful purpose for many operators in this sector and has enabled them to keep people employed and prepare for a recovery and reopening phase, it explains.

In addition to the JobKeeper extension request, the BAN asks that any federal government stimulus for the tourism industry include direct financial assistance to bus and coach operators who are dependent on international and domestic tourists.

"We would like to keep members of the Bus Australia Network informed of the Federal Government’s plans and would appreciate a response at your earliest convenience," it concludes.

ABC magazine (www.busnews.com.au) has contacted the Minister’s office seeking a response to the request.

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