House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Constituency Statements

COVID-19: Tourism

10:18 am

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak about the plight of tourism operators, tourism workers and the entire Whitsundays. We came to the rescue somewhat for some of the businesses there with a JobKeeper program for some of the workers as well. Yesterday it was announced, and today we are putting into the parliament, the fee relief for reef tourism operators. Their reef tax, the Great Barrier Reef marine park environmental management charge, is being waived right up until February. That will mean money back in the pockets of tourism operators. I note the Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association has written to myself, the Minister for the Environment, the Deputy Prime Minister and others to personally offer their sincere and heartfelt thanks for the support that the government has shown to the industry in what will be long remembered as one of its darkest times.

Indeed, it is a dark time in the Whitsundays tourism industry. The numbers that I have received from Tourism Whitsundays of their collated industry impacts due to the pandemic crisis are just terrible to read. The amount of businesses directly impacted by the events, unsurprisingly, is 100 per cent—all of them. The number of businesses that have suspended operations is 85. This is the kicker: 2,760 jobs were lost in the very small community of the Whitsundays. The number of room nights cancelled is almost 30,000. The tour and activities cancelled is almost 24,000. It's a total estimated value of almost $130 million ripped out of a very, very small economy where tourism accounts for one in three jobs and 40 per cent of the $6.3 billion of the income that goes into the Great Barrier Reef industry. It is very, very, very alarming.

Things need to happen now. I believe there needs to be increased assistance for the tourism sector, particularly in infrastructure. There needs to be an ongoing range of support in JobKeeper, I believe, for the tourism sector, beyond the end of the current rollout of JobKeeper. We also need the state government to subsidise marine berthing costs. We need action taken against some of these online travel agencies that have ripped off both the consumer and tourism businesses, owing them a lot of money for months of tours that have been taken. These are things that need to happen now as we try to get out of this pandemic crisis.