Senate debates

Thursday, 22 March 2012


Tourism Australia

6:11 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

The Tourism Australia report for 2010-11 is an interesting document. I thank Tourism Australia for attending Parliament House just this morning and for conducting a forum to explain their promotion of tourism in Australia and to indicate Tourism Australia's enthusiasm for promoting all the good things that there are in Australia. I thank them for coming along. I did raise the question in question time of just what this quite elaborate promotion was actually achieving in numbers, and it was suggested to me that it is being successful, although in raw numbers that is hard to gauge. I did indicate in my question that tourism areas in my state of Queensland that I am familiar with—the Gold Coast, the Whitsundays and Cairns—are doing it fairly tough insofar as the tourism industry is concerned. I know that there have been concerns raised amongst small and medium tourism operators in Cairns about the effectiveness of campaigns run by Tourism Australia.

My concern in my home state of Queensland is for the lack of support that the state government has given to the tourism industry, in particular in the Whitsundays and Cairns, which are struggling. We have seen nothing from Ms Bligh, the current Queensland Premier, and her Labor government in relation to the difficulties that are being faced by small business operators. All of the tourism industry will tell you that the inflexibility in labour relationships and working conditions these days is a major difficulty for small business operators, particularly in the tourism industry, which requires very extensive flexibility. I was delighted that Mr Campbell Newman, the leader of the Liberal National Party in Queensland—and, hopefully, from my point of view, the Premier of Queensland after this Saturday—made a commitment in Cairns to dredging the Cairns harbour to allow into that city the very big cruise liners that currently are denied passage into Cairns because the harbour is not capable of taking those big ships of 60,000, 70,000, 80,000, 90,000, 100,000 tonnes and beyond. The Cairns port does need dredging. Those ships that come to Cairns now have to park up the coast a bit, and that means tourists from the ships have to be ferried into the shore. They then do not have enough time to get into the city of Cairns, nor do they have the time to go on the tours. It would certainly help the tourism industry and the tourism operators if they were able to do that.

Campbell Newman has done a magnificent thing in making this commitment to dredge the harbour. People have been calling for that for years and years, but it has been ignored not only by the state government but also by the local representatives of the Cairns area in the state parliament. Until next Saturday they have all been Labor, unfortunately. Those local state MPs have done nothing for and have shown no interest in the tourism industry in Cairns. Hopefully, after Saturday, Cairns will have decent representation in a new LNP government which will be able to give a real boost to the tourism industry in Cairns. As I said, and I repeat, I am particularly grateful to Campbell Newman for making this commitment which will allow the big liners to get into Cairns and allow the wealth that comes off those ships. Three or four thousand people on board coming into Cairns will give Cairns a much needed boosted—a boost that should have been promoted by the state members in the past but which I am confident after Saturday will be promoted by the new state members in those areas.

6:17 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would also like to take note of the Tourism Australia report for 2010-11. Just before I go to that could I also acknowledge the contribution made by Senator Ronaldson in relation to Jim Stynes and express my support for the comments that were made, and I am sure the support of the government, in relation to a great sportsperson and someone who made a fantastic contribution to sport in this country.

On the issue of Tourism Australia, I note that Senator Macdonald raised the issues facing tourism in Australia. Well, there are a number of issues facing tourism in Australia. But what is the issue that Senator Macdonald chooses to raise? He chooses to raise inflexibility in the labour relationship. We know what 'inflexibility in the labour relationship' is when it is coming from the coalition. It simply means that they want to go back to Work Choices. They want so much flexibility that a worker loses their penalty rates, loses their shift allowances, loses their capacity to have any rights on the job and loses their dignity on the job. That is what Work Choices did. So whenever we hear Senator Macdonald talking about 'inflexibility in labour relationships', what we have to understand for tourism workers and workers in the tourism industry is that it is about bringing Work Choices back. It is about giving the boss complete control over workers in that industry.

I am surprised that the coalition want to keep raising this issue as a major issue. I would have thought that they would have actually dealt with the scientific issues that the tourism industry is facing—for instance, the effects in the tourism industry of global warming and the effects that is going to have in the medium to long term for tourism jobs in this country. We see from the reports that come through from the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, NASA and all of the eminent scientists on climate change that they have raised the concerns of the problems for the tourism industry of global warming. Yet what do we hear from the coalition and Senator Macdonald on that? We hear nothing.

And why do we hear nothing from Senator Macdonald on that issue? We hear nothing because one of the biggest climate change deniers in the country is the billionaire miner Clive Palmer. Clive Palmer, who is a major donor to the coalition, would in my view be the reason that the real issues facing the tourism industry are absolutely ignored by Senator Macdonald. And why wouldn't they be ignored, when in 2010-11 almost half a million dollars was donated by Clive Palmer to the Liberal National Party in Queensland? In 2009-10 there was a million dollars and in 2009-09 there was $605,000.

I have said in this chamber before that, when it comes to the puppies of the coalition, they are Clive Palmer's puppies. They ignore the real issues of climate change, they ignore the real issues of workers' rights, and they simply become Clive Palmer's puppies—because the money is flowing in from Clive Palmer to the Liberal National Party. They stand up here and go after workers' rights and workers' ability to have a decent rate of pay on the job. And why are they doing that? They are doing that because Clive Palmer would like to go back to Work Choices—and so the Liberal National Party would like to go back to Work Choices. Clive Palmer does not believe in climate change, so the Liberal National Party do not believe in climate change. Clive Palmer goes into his big, deep pockets and hands it over to the Liberal National Party and they become Clive Palmer's puppies. They say: 'Clive, what can we do for you now? How can we get rid of workers' rights? How can we support your climate change rhetoric?' The Liberal National Party have become Clive Palmer's puppies. That is simply what they are. (Time expired)

6:22 pm

Photo of Jan McLucasJan McLucas (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers) Share this | | Hansard source

I acknowledge that Senator Heffernan wants to speak on item No. 6, but after Senator Macdonald's comments I feel compelled to make some comments about what is happening to the tourism industry in North Queensland. Like Senator Macdonald, I attended the briefing this morning from Tourism Australia, and Senator Sterle was there as well. What I took from that meeting is that in regional Queensland and regional Australia we need to improve our tourism infrastructure. I point to the work that has been done by the Bligh government in Queensland to develop the cruise liner terminal in the port of Cairns. I also point to the work that the Bligh Labor government has done in Townsville to develop the cruise liner terminal in that fair city as well.

The second thing I took from that meeting is that we need to increase our international flights, particularly into destinations like Cairns. Once again, I commend Premier Bligh for the work that she has done on developing a very sensible and effective incentive package that will deliver increased flights, particularly to China. It is a thoughtful package and, if the government were re-elected on Saturday, I believe it would result in incredibly increased numbers of seats coming to Cairns.

Senator Macdonald wanted to talk about the commitment that Campbell Newman has made in my town—that he will unilaterally dredge the harbour and that is an ironclad commitment. There are a number of hurdles that must be overcome before we can achieve that outcome. I support work to increase visitation by the cruise liner industry into our city. They are a very important part of our tourism product.

I inform the Senate that the Cairns Port Authority is currently undertaking two inquiries—one is completed—into the important harbour facilities that are required in order for ships to tie up. That work is done. It indicates that we need some increased work in the actual tie-up facilities. The second study that is currently underway is the dredging study. It is a study that will ascertain whether we can dredge the harbour to the extent needed to take in the larger vessels that we know we want. We live between two World Heritage listed environmental assets: the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics World Heritage area. They are the reason that people come to visit us in Far North Queensland. That is understood and not questioned. But Campbell Newman has said that he is just going to dredge the harbour. Where is the spoil going to go? Currently, for the annual dredging of Trinity Inlet, the spoil does go into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It has been approved to do that and it has done that for years and years, but we are talking about a major dredging event. I think the sensible and honest approach that Kirsten Lesina, the Labor Party candidate for the seat of Cairns, has undertaken is to say that she supports the proper processes that are underway. She, like me, would love to see an increase in visitation. That is why we have the process happening.

Campbell Newman has said he will dredge the harbour full stop—no questions, no studies. I want to know where the spoil is going to go. I suggest to the people of the electorate of Cairns that the honest approach that has been described by our candidate, Kirsten Lesina, which will support a proper assessment process—

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

Ms Bligh has had 22 years and she hasn't dredged yet.

Photo of Jan McLucasJan McLucas (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers) Share this | | Hansard source

I do not know if Senator Macdonald has been watching the papers over the last little while. There has been an absolute outcry at the notion that people would put spoil from dredging into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. But it happens all the time. You and I know that, but let's be sensible about the next big step. It is a big step and we have to get it right. I am sorry if you have a person who would like to be the Premier who just says, 'We'll just come in and dredge it all up and shove it out into the marine park.' If we do that without the proper process, it will fail.

6:27 pm

Photo of David BushbyDavid Bushby (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to take note of that as well and seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.