Monday, 15 March 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Payne. When the government announced its much anticipated support package for the tourism industry, 13 regions had been identified for support. At that time, Darwin, Adelaide, Hobart and Townsville were not included in the successful list. A document quoted by Hobart's The Mercury shows that these locations were in fact originally included but then removed by the government at the last minute. Why were Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart and Townsville dumped from the government's announcement?
I thank Senator Chisholm for his question. I believe that I indicated the locations for the half-price ticket program in my earlier response. I listed those to the chamber. I indicated that the number of questions which I have received on these matters from those opposite in recent times have specifically asked about those locations. What I was going to say, before my time expired in my earlier response, was that destinations were chosen in consultation with airlines in regard to relevant routes, using Austrade data to determine the regions that were most impacted by the loss of international tourists. There is capacity to add to the list, based on further consultation, based on consumer demand, based on the capacity of 13 destinations—
The point of order is relevance, Mr President. The question is a very simple one: why were those four towns—Townsville, Hobart, Adelaide and Darwin—originally on the list and then taken off the list?
I'm listening very carefully to the minister's answer. I've allowed you to restate that part of the question, Senator Farrell. I'm going to continue to listen, but the minister was going to the very point of the determination of which places were included. I'm going to consider that to be directly relevant. I can't instruct her on the terms in which to answer.
As I was saying, the destinations were chosen in consultation with airlines in regard to relevant routes and using Austrade data to determine the regions most impacted by the loss of international tourists. I indicated to the chamber that there is capacity to add to the list, based on further consultation, consumer demand and the capacity of the 13 destinations and the success of the program. As I understand it, the Prime Minister has said that this is an initial list of destinations and that more routes will be added. Indeed, after further consultation with airlines and industry and advice from Austrade, Townsville, Hobart, Darwin and Adelaide have been added to the initial rollout list.
In a confusing and embarrassing series of backflips, Darwin, Adelaide, Hobart and Townsville have now been re-added to the list, only days after the announcement. If these locations were chosen based on actual need, rather than political targeting, why were they dumped from the original announcement, only to be embarrassingly re-added?
I'm very disappointed that those opposite do not seem to support the inclusion of Townsville, Hobart, Darwin and Adelaide. I'm deeply disappointed by that, because that would seem to not be particularly representative of their obligations as senators in this place—
The point of order is direct relevance. The question isn't what the opposition's position is. The question is why the government took these locations out, then put them back in. It's a very simple proposition. The minister might want to obfuscate by creating straw people arguments, but the question is, with your announcement, why were they taken out and then re-added?
On the point of order, it is not directly relevant to be making observations about the motives of those asking questions. It is, however, directly relevant if the minister is talking about the determination of the locations. I can't instruct her to inspect a premise, but it is not directly relevant to assign a motive to the people asking a question.
I believe that I had said to the chamber that, after further consultation with the airlines and industry and advice from Austrade, Townsville, Hobart, Darwin and Adelaide have been added to the initial rollout list. What I don't understand is why those opposite don't support that. Why don't they support Townsville, Hobart, Darwin and Adelaide?
The point of order is direct relevance, Mr President. You have just made a ruling that assignation of motive does not meet the direct relevance rule, and then the minister immediately goes to assigning motive. I'd ask you to pull her into order.
On the point of order, Mr President, what I said immediately after your ruling was: after further consultation with the airlines, industry and advice from Austrade, Townsville, Hobart, Darwin and Adelaide had been added to the initial rollout list. I'm very happy to keep saying that.
On the point of order—
Senator Watt interjecting—
Senator Watt, I'm trying to rule on your leader's point of order. The move from relevance to direct relevance has always been interpreted to contain the nature of an answer. When ministers answer a question, further material that is provided, in my view, still needs to be directly relevant and to meet that test. I can't instruct a minister to accept the premise of a question, however. So the minister can answer in the terms that a minister deems fit. But it isn't appropriate to assign a motive to a person asking the question. Senator Payne? You have concluded your answer.
Senator Chisholm, a final supplementary question?
After being dumped from the list, Darwin was re-added within hours, while Hobart and Townsville took three days to be reannounced. Was Senator McMahon more convincing in her arguments, or did Senators Abetz and Canavan just take longer to complain to the Prime Minister?
Honourable senators interjecting—
I have been very clear to the chamber in relation to the addition of routes. I have also said the Prime Minister has indicated this is an initial list of destinations and more routes will be added. I indicated that further consultation with airlines and with industry and advice from Austrade enabled Townsville, Hobart, Darwin and Adelaide to be added to the initial rollout list.
What I would also say is that those senators on this side to which Senator Chisholm referred are superb advocates for their communities and superb advocates for their states and their region, and we hear crickets on the other side in terms of their own advocacy.
An honourable senator interjecting—