Treasurer Josh Frydenburg, last night handed down the Federal Budget which included a number of measures aimed at boosting different parts of the liquor and hospitality industry, which have been widely welcomed.

The Treasurer confirmed measures directly aimed at easing the chronic worker shortage in the hospitality sector, as well as increases to the excise refund cap for small distillers and brewers from $100,000 to $350,000 per year. He also announced a number of other measures designed to help small business owners through their recovery.

Australian Hotels Association national CEO Stephen Ferguson said the streamlining of visa requirements to permit student visa holders to work more than 40 hours a fortnight would make a real difference.

“The Government has listened to the hospitality and tourism sector’s concerns and acted – we congratulate the Prime Minister and Treasurer,” Ferguson said.

“What we need now is for the States and Territories to support the road to recovery by ensuring Australians have confidence to travel within our own country without fear of sudden border closures and lockdowns.”

Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson said the measure would help alleviate the worker shortage impacting accommodation hotels nationwide.

“This is a temporary, targeted, common-sense measure we have been pushing for,” he said.

“Permitting student visa holders to work more hours – and letting temporary visa holders work in the tourism sector – under the COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa will go some way towards addressing the lack of staff, particularly chefs, faced by the hospitality and accommodation sector across Australia.”  

Ferguson also welcomed the $10m in spending on regulatory technology solutions for modern award obligations.

“Anything which makes it easier for employees and employers alike to navigate the 126-page Hospitality Award is a welcome move. This measure will make it easier and cheaper to navigate complex awards, make it easier to hire and reduce unintended payment errors.”

Restaurant & Catering Australia CEO Wes Lambert said that measures announced by the Treasurer would help address critical problems affecting the recovery of the accommodation and food service sector including staff shortages, stimulating demand, providing a pathway to international border re-opening and ensuring small businesses get the assistance and support they need to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The accommodation and food services sector continues to be the worst affected sector of our economy jobs-wise, with ABS data showing that our workforce is 11.2% smaller today than it was in March 2020,” Lambert said.

“This is despite more jobs ads being available today than ever before and predictions showing double digit employment growth in our sector over the next five years.

“Put simply, there are tens of thousands of jobs available right now across the hospitality sector – and this budget helps to deliver what is needed to get more Australians into those jobs.

“The expansion of $2.7bn Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements, which will deliver a further 170,000 new apprentices via a wage subsidy paid to businesses who take on a new apprentice, plus the expansion of the $1bn JobTrainer Fund to fund a further 163,000 new training places will help fill the crippling staff shortage that exists across the hospitality sector today.”

The Australian Distillers Association and Spirits and Cocktails Australia said the excise rebate change will deliver much needed assistance to more than 300 craft distillers, most of whom are based in rural and regional areas, and also represents a promising first step towards unleashing the potential of the Australian spirits industry.

ADA President Stu Gregor said: “This decision provides much needed relief for hundreds of craft distillers around the country that were severely impacted by COVID-19. It means craft distillers will have more capital available to help their businesses grow and to employ more locals – bringing important economic benefits through job creation, expanding farm production, regional tourism and hospitality for our communities.

“We have great ambitions to grow Australia’s world-class distilling industry and this is a great first step that will help the industry to grow.”

Spirits and Cocktails Australia Chief Executive Greg Holland added: “The best alcohol tax system is a fair one, so we thank the Government for bringing the tax incentives offered to small distillers and brewers into line with those offered to small wine makers. 

“However, we note that Australia’s alcohol tax regime remains fundamentally flawed and unfair, imposing a spirits tax that is already ten times higher than the US rate, and 68% higher than New Zealand’s, with further increases every six months.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Government toward a fairer and more sustainable spirits tax regime – one that aligns spirits tax rates with brandy, and freezes CPI increases – to create jobs, investment and export opportunities in a burgeoning Australian industry.”

Other measures including $8m for a two-year campaign to encourage Australians to spend more at their local small or family business, the establishment of a new, independent umpire to assist small businesses to pause any ATO debt recovery actions until their case is decided by the independent umpire, temporary loss carry-back extended for 12 months and the continuation of aviation support were also welcomed as assisting small business owners in their pandemic recovery.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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