Palaszczuk sets date for North Queensland bubble decision
PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk has named the date for a decision on the proposed North Queensland travel bubble as the true extent of Cairns unemployment emerges.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures state the Cairns region had only 7700 unemployed people in April and that employment inexplicably increased in March.
Economist Bill Cummings said the true numbers were far more serious than the "unreliable" ABS data sets - and that about one in four people in Cairns were likely unemployed or on the JobKeeper program right now.
"While there has been speculation about the likely impact on the region's economy of the coronavirus restrictions, hard evidence is now starting to emerge," he said.
"A massive increase has occurred in the number of people in the region on unemployment benefits - JobSeeker and Youth Allowance (Other) - as recorded by the Department of Social Services.
"The number has leapt from about 8400 in the region (4900 in the Cairns local government area, minus Babinda) in February to 23,000 in the region (15,000 in Cairns) in April."
Mr Cummings estimated the unemployment rate - as measured by the number of people registered for unemployment benefits - had tripled from about 6 per cent to 18 per cent.
"This compares with about 9 per cent at national level," he said. "It can be expected that the May figures will show a further increase."
On top of those figures were the vast number of jobs kept open by the JobKeeper program.
"At this stage numbers are unknown," he said.
"It is quite possible that at present, at end May, there is of the order of 25 per cent either unemployed or only being in employment due to the JobKeeper program.
The troubling analysis lends weight to the push to extend the JobKeeper program beyond its September 27 expiry date in light of revelations the program is $60 billion below its initial bungled estimates.
It also highlights the economic devastation likely to be caused by prolonged interstate border closures and a failure to introduce a North Queensland travel bubble.
"The figures emphasise the massive damage being done to the region's economy and the importance of lifting restraints as quickly as possible," Mr Cummings said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did not rule out the North Queensland travel bubble proposal when queried yesterday.
"On the face of it, it sounds very feasible so I've asked them to submit that plan to government and we'll be able to get them a decision by the end of this month," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"(I'm) more than happy to speak to them as well.
"I understand they are formulating a plan and I look forward to seeing that plan."
PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk has committed to making a decision on a North Queensland travel bubble by the end of the month - but the LNP wants the ball rolling quicker.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington accused the Premier of "fobbing off" the Far North by asking the tourism industry to make formal applications for the regional travel ban relaxation.
"The Premier knows exactly what the plan to free up North and Far North Queensland looks like already," she said.
"Asking tourism leaders to make another submission is just putting another roadblock on the path to recovery.
"An economic crisis is unfolding right now in Cairns and the Palaszczuk Labor government urgently needs to step up and start listening."
Originally published as Palaszczuk sets date for North Queensland bubble decision