By Joyce DiMascio

Chair of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Tourism arm is urging the government to finalise its support package for industries hit hardest by Covid-19 restrictions and announce the tourism restart timetable as soon as possible.

micenet spoke with John Hart on an important day – the day when the first consignment of vaccines arrived in the country. A significant milestone and the start of the next phase of the Covid-19 war.

A multitude of organisations have worked hard for agreement on what’s needed to get the tourism, business events and hospitality sectors back on their feet. This was discussed with treasury officials last week in another round of meetings in Canberra.

The scale of the teamwork has been ground-breaking amongst peak bodies in the visitor economy. Hart says it’s been hard but the collaboration was essential to the strategy.

And that unified approach has all been designed to make it easier for the Government to deal with many sectors in the visitor economy including tourism, hospitality, business events and entertainment and cultural events.

As a seasoned campaigner, advocate and political broker, John Hart has been at the epicentre of many tourism, education and hospitality policy and funding drives over decades.

But none as complex and critical as the current one to save thousands of businesses being tossed around by the uncertainties of a risk-averse political and health environment.

Hart is not fazed by this. He’s a tough and experienced campaigner. He trades in evidence-based advocacy, policy rigour and political outcomes. He knows the business inside-out and having Hart well-versed in the business events sector and tourism is essential. He has influence.

The start of the phased vaccination program has provided this high-powered lobbyist and friend of the Liberal Party another marker on the long hard road back.

For with the quarantine environment more secure through a vaccinated workforce, it may mean that the lockdowns and border closures may become less frequent.

So his approach to dealing with governments in order to get funding and policy outcomes is very targeted. He doesn’t muck around – but most of all John Hart is very discreet.

In our interview he was very careful not to say anything that would jeopardise the current big pitch for ongoing support post-March when JobKeeper ends.

He’d been at the meeting with Treasury to unpack again, piece by piece, the impacts of Covid-19 on our industry. He says there is so much data, and so many case studies.

Like all those involved in this campaign, he wants treasury to look carefully at the data and listen to what the industry is saying.

There’s a big focus on the funding support package, who gets it and how much and this he says should be based on who needs it most based on the “evidence”.

But Hart is also very focussed on the international travel restart agenda.

“Everyone needs to know what the restart timetable is,” he says.

And a key to that is the vaccination roll-out plan.

“Once we are sufficiently vaccinated, there is no justification for state restrictions on interstate travel and international travel – both inbound and outbound should open-up.”

There have been several versions of the restart timetable, all the relevant government agencies and industry representatives are sitting on a version now.

“We’re sitting on a structured restart plan that we want the government to sign-off,” he said.

As expected, a plethora of agencies are at the table with the Tourism Restart Taskforce – they have included Austrade, DFAT and Australian Border Force.

While the most recent stop to flights between Australia and New Zealand has been a setback, Hart says the industry still needs clarity about when and how Australia will reopen for international travel.

Australia has been a late starter with the vaccine roll-out but it’s here now and we must be hopeful that it will be the change, the major change in the war against Covid.

John Hart is a consummate lobbyist. Not of average ranking but very polished. It’s his DNA. He’s no amateur but a political insider – trusted and respected in the corridors of Parliament House in Canberra and also around the states. He’s in with the Liberal Party – but Labor opens its doors to him also.

He’s on our team. I’m really glad about that.

With our team at the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) headed by Dr Vanessa Findlay – and others from the other peak bodies in tourism and travel, I know our associations are fighting hard. Fighting hard for the good of all of us.

You can also add to the weight of their voices – write to the Prime Minister, write to the Treasurer and write to the Tourism Minister….and if you don’t want to do that, pick up the phone and call their offices at Parliament House, Canberra.

Here are the details.

Switchboard Phone: 02 6277 7111 (from within Australia) or +61 262777111 (from outside Australia)
Parliament House switchboard is open from:
8.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday on non-sitting days
8.00am to 30 minutes after sitting on sitting weeks