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Cairns economist warns of massive unemployment and damage to local economy because of border closure

The international tourist destination of Cairns in Far North Queensland which showcases the Great Barrier Reef has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Cairns economist Bill Cummings has investigated the real number of unemployed which rose from 8178 in December 2019 to 23,100 in April 2020.

This massive increase is directly attributable to Covid 19 forced business shutdowns and a halt to international and most domestic flights.

“The number has leapt from about 8,400 in the region (4,900 in Cairns) in February, to 23,000 in the region (15,000 in Cairns) in April.  Estimated unemployment rate as measured by registered unemployed on benefits has jumped from about 6% to about 18%.  This compares with about 9% at national level.  It can be expected that the May figures will show a further increase,” Mr Cummings said.

“On top of this, there are large numbers of jobs being supported by the Australian Government’s JobKeeper program.  At this stage numbers are unknown.  It is quite possible that at present, at end May, there is at least 25% either unemployed or only being in employment due to the JobKeeper program.”

Cairns unemployment has hit 18 per cent, double the national average, due to Covid closures and a refusal by the Premier to reopen state borders.

He said the figures also highlight the unreliability of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Series that for April records unemployment of only 7700 in the region and incredibly, an increase in employment over March.

The city and region are almost totally reliant on tourism and dozens of travel, tourist and accommodation businesses in Cairns have closed their doors, unlikely to ever reopen.

Labor’s real agenda is to keep the state borders closed until election in October

A defiant Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has repeatedly told the tourism sector she will not reopen the border with NSW until at least mid-September, a decision she says is based on medical advice, presumably from Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young.

If the border reopened interstate tourists could take the economic pressure off the Gold Coast and Cairns keeping businesses and jobs alive.

Despite conflicting advice from federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Paul Kelly, who said he cannot see any medical reason for the border to remain closed, Dr Young refuses to yield.

Not only is Cairns acutely suffering but 1900 kilometres to the south, Cavill Avenue, the main street of the Gold Coast, looks and feels like a morgue.

There is however a feeling among northern political commentators and some Cape York residents that the real agenda of the Premier and the Labor Party is to keep the state closed up until mid-September, a month before the state election, due on October 31.

A prolonged closure would seriously hamper election candidates for opposing parties from accessing different parts of the state to campaign.

Last week the leader of the fledgling NQ First party, Jason Costigan caused a stir and a belated police investigation after a Liberal Party supporter in Cooktown questioned how he got through the police and military checkpoint to enter the small ocean front town.

Being the Member for Whitsunday,  Mr Costigan, said he made a proper application for a permit and was allowed to enter the no go zone for electoral purposes, in deference to Cooktown residents and Hopevale Aboriginal community which have been locked up since March.

“I did nothing wrong and abided by the law,” Mr Costigan said.

The NQ First party endorsed former Mayor of Aboriginal community Wulal Wujal, Desmond Tayley, as its candidate for the seat of Cook.

Wujal Wujal is situated just to the south of Cooktown.

This abuse of power by the State Government could be a sign of things to come.