House debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Constituency Statements

COVID-19: Tourism

10:33 am

Photo of Warren EntschWarren Entsch (Leichhardt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Queensland border has finally come down, and the visitors are pouring in. But we're still being subjected to some baffling decisions by the Queensland Labor government. Cairns is home to the largest reef fleet in the state, and operators have been itching to take people out on our magnificent and very healthy Great Barrier Reef. But, despite the fact that you can go to the local pub—you can sink a schooner with your mates or dance away the night—and you can go to a football field with 52,000 people, sadly, our reef operators are still being subjected to draconian restrictions. One of the excuses the state Labor government have given our reef operators as to why planes can be packed but reef operators are being forced to operate on less than 25 per cent capacity is—wait for it—that 'consideration must be given to the possibility of inclement weather and how this would impact on capacity and social distancing if people were forced inside'. What an absolute load of rubbish. The hypocrisy is now beyond a joke. Queensland Labor government are also flatly refusing to make public the so-called health advice that this decision has been based on. What are they hiding?

The Queensland Premier ran a very successful COVID scare campaign to get people to vote for her, and it worked. It's now time to move on and get back to some sort of normality. But what makes my blood boil even more is the fact that we now have an Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development in Michael Healy, based in Cairns, and he's been as quiet as a church mouse in relation to this issue. This is the same person who had a former career as a senior executive in the local marine tourism industry, so he knows too well the impact that these restrictions are having on his former industry, and I have absolutely no doubt that he's been giving the same lip-service to the industry, with talking points that are fed to him from Brisbane.

But our city and our reef operators want more. We've been shut down for months. This is our opportunity, leading into Christmas. The Victorian and New South Wales borders are open. People want to get out onto the reef. They cannot get out there at the moment because 25 per cent capacity makes it impossible. So we are getting a lot of people going up there with an expectation and leaving very, very disappointed, making it much harder for our reef operators to resume. We want people to fly into our city. We want some advocates for our city. And we want somebody who will stand up and fight for the industry.

I say to Mr Healy: you need to get out there and have a voice. Sadly, over the last month in the role, he's been off to a very poor and disappointing start. I'm not really surprised. He's always been a Brisbane man based in Cairns. I just hope that, in time, with a realisation that he has a responsibility to an industry that he knows so very well, he will actually get out there and say: 'This is not good enough.' We've still got time before Christmas. The flights are coming in. And I very much hope that he proves me wrong and gets out there and does his job.

Photo of Jason FalinskiJason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am reluctant to call the member for Solomon, as I fear he is going to breach a standing order! But I call the member for Solomon.