Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told Today this morning the government’s outlook was built in part on a presumed resumption of overseas travel in 2022.
However, the Budget steered clear of prescribing a date, mentioning only that the risks posed by the international scale of the COVID-19 pandemic could continue to delay Australia’s border reopening.
“The continued economic recovery will rely on the effective containment of COVID-19 outbreaks both here and abroad and will be a key factor in the timing of the reopening of international borders, which could weigh on the outlook for the tourism and education sectors,” the Budget papers state.
“Downside risks to the outlook for the global economy from ongoing outbreaks of the virus in major economies, including India, could have implications for Australia’s domestic economy.”
In the meantime, the government has said it is continuing to maintain an international airline capability through a new $200 million investment, supporting up to 8000 jobs and enabling international flights to resume “when borders open”.
The government is delivering a $1.2 billion package for aviation and tourism businesses, including 800,000 half-price airfares to domestic destinations, of which more than 660,000 have been sold already.
An allocation of $274.6 million will expand and extend current programs that are supporting businesses hard-hit by border shutdowns, including travel agents, zoos and aquariums.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the introduction of the Global Talent visa and Temporary Activity visa, to provide a pathway for “highly skilled individuals” to do business down under.
“Australia’s effective management of COVID-19 makes us an even more attractive place for the best and brightest from around the world,” he said.
“To take advantage of this, we are streamlining visas to target highly skilled individuals when circumstances allow.”
A $53.6 million package has been allocated towards the international education sector.
A Budget media release from Education Minister Alan Tudge declared universities and “many other higher education providers” had benefited from an influx of domestic students, but other English language providers and higher private educators had been hit hard by the absence of overseas students.
The package will fund an extra 5000 short courses for domestic students in 2021-22 at non-university higher-education providers.
A fund of $150,000 grants will also be available for independent English language and higher education providers to adapt to the impact of the pandemic.
“Keeping our borders closed has been our best defence against COVID-19, but we realise the impact this has had on private providers,” Mr Tudge said.
“Our package of support will help keep these businesses viable until international students can return in larger numbers.”