Help for the hospitality industry has been bypassed in the federal budget, with only a relaxation of working visa laws and a boost to tourism boost offered up to the struggling sector.

Bartender Robbie Tighe said a history of Liberal governments placing hospitality on the back burner has left many in the industry frustrated and forgotten.

“Hospitality not being on the budget doesn’t shock me,” he told Central News.

The 2022-23 budget’s neglect of hospitality follows a stressful year for the industry, with surges of COVID-19 infections and staff shortages crippling venues trying to recoup lost earnings after years of lockdown losses.

Hospitality has historically been strengthened by working visa holders and international students, two demographics the government is targeting as part of it’s over 70 changes to migration and visa settings in response to COVID-19.

An Eastern suburbs bar manager, who wished to remain anonymous, said of the staff shortage crisis: “The industry relies on international workers, we’ve been absolutely f***ed by losing them almost overnight. Pair that with most of our staff getting COVID, we’ve had to close the business because we haven’t had anyone to man the bar.”

Café bar, Bat Country, with staff awaiting budget results later in the day.

Café bar, Bat Country, one of many venues that barely got through the complications of the past two years.

Robbie Tighe, a bartender at Hotel Palisade in The Rocks in Sydney says the loss of international workers was a big blow.

“We’ve been so understaffed, we had to ask old staff who haven’t worked for us for three years to come back for the December rush… over half of our staff were international students or visa holders,” said Tighe. “It’ll be nice to get those staff back but I’m wary about whether or not they will come back… why would they if there’s easier work out there?”

While tourism and international students returning might be a crutch for hospitality, there is no direct relief for the industry in the budget, leaving staff underwhelmed.

“We’re understaffed, overworked and underpaid and we work in an industry that takes advantage of young, vulnerable people,”  said the eastern suburbs bar manager, “Hospo needs a lot of tender love and care.”

Tighe spoke on his experience of feeling like hospitality has been overlooked by Liberal governments.

“The government has used COVID to choke the life out of our industry,” said Tighe.

Photos and words by Fred Pawle.