Senate Matter of Public Importance - COVID-19: Tourism

Senate Matter of Public Importance - COVID-19: Tourism

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I inform the Senate that at 8:30am today,  two proposals were received in accordance   with Standing Order 75. The question of which  proposal would be submitted to the Senate was   determined by lot. As a result I inform the Senate  that the matter from Senator Gallagher proposing   a matter of public importance was chosen. It is  shown as item 13 on today's order of business.   Is the proposal supported? I understand  that informal arrangements have been made   to allocate specific times to each of the  speakers in today's discussion, with the   concurrence of the Senate I shall ask the clerks  to set the clock accordingly. Senator Farrell. Thank you Mr Acting Deputy President, I know  you are one person who would have been amazed   and dumbfounded by the government's proposed  package for the tourism industry last week.   Anybody who has been to Far North Queensland will  understand how much devastation has been caused to   the tourism industry as a result of the closure  of our federal border. I'm not talking about our  

state borders here; I'm talking about our federal  border. The federal government decided to close   that border. International tourists  used to come to this country   to see some of the greatest natural  wonders in the world, like the Daintree,   the Great Barrier Reef and all the  magnificent places in our north.

The tourism industry was looking to the  federal government to come up with a package   post JobKeeper. The first observation I'd make  about that is that JobKeeper ends in two weeks   time. Whatever the government was going to propose  to replace it, the logical thing would have been   to do what the Labor Party suggested—that is, keep  JobKeeper going in those industries that have been   adversely affected by, amongst other things, the  downturn in tourism. The government decided not   to do that, but they were coming up with their own  package. As we know, we saw Minister Tehan and the   Treasurer go up to Cairns, and the best that the  government could come up with was this so-called   'ticket to recovery', as the Prime Minister  called it. Anybody who talks to anybody in the  

tourism industry, whether you're a hotel operator,  whether you're a restaurant or a hotel or even an   ordinary retail shop, knows that this package is  not going to do the trick. It doesn't fit the bill   for what the industry desperately needs at  the moment. The industry was looking for some   leadership from Mr Morrison and the Treasurer.  The industry didn't get it from this package. Can I give you an idea of how silly some of these  proposals were? One of the proposals was to try   and help Kangaroo Island, in my home state. Of  course Kangaroo Island needs some help. They   had terrible bushfires and terrible loss of life  last year. You might even recall that the Prime  

Minister was unaware there had been loss  of life on Kangaroo Island. Then they got   hit by the pandemic. So they certainly need some  assistance. The government decided that they would   give out cheap tickets to Kangaroo Island. There  are no international flights into Kangaroo Island.  

I don't know why; as a former tourism minister  I approved an extension to the length of the   airport in Kingscote which would have allowed for   that. But for one reason or another  there are no international flights. The only way you can get to Kangaroo Island by  plane is to fly to Adelaide. I can see Senator   Hanson-Young is also shocked! The only way you  can get to Kangaroo Island is via Adelaide;   you can't get to it via an international  flight. So the original proposal, which, we  

have now seen, is on the original website,  included the concept of flying into Adelaide   and then flying on to Kangaroo Island. But  the incompetence of this government—when   they finally announced their package, they left  Adelaide off the list. You're right! We don't   agree on much, Senator Hanson-Young, but we do  agree on this: it was outrageous. You couldn't   fly into Kangaroo Island unless you flew into  Adelaide. I understand the Premier found out that   Adelaide had been included originally. When he  saw the list, it hadn't been included; it had been   excluded. He jumped up and down, and Adelaide  got added to the list. That is just one small  

portion of the outrageous way in which this  government has treated the tourism industry. Thank you Senator Farrell, Senator McDonald. Thank you, so to question the coalition's  commitment to our tourism sector displays   a cynicism that is unworthy of even  the most partisan political hack.   I'm sorry to interrupt the love-in  between the opposition and the Greens that   I've just been watching, but I'm reminded  of a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci: There are three classes of people: those who see,   those who see when they are  shown, those who do not see.

Because the Labor Party fall into the category  of those who do not see, I'll indulge them with   some truths. The coalition's tourism assistance  package alone is worth $1.2 billion, spread across   subsidised flights for tourists, expanding our  offer of guaranteed loans for businesses on top   of the already $3 billion in loans that have been  processed. We've allocated cash payments to travel   agents, cash for zoos to keep feeding animals and  subsidies for regional airport security costs,   but what I've outlined only just scratches  the surface of the coalition's commitment   to one of our biggest industries. We've  also brought in tax breaks for businesses,   which have been most welcomed, and spent  millions on domestic tourism advertising   campaigns urging Aussies to holiday at home. There is an extraordinary thing  about this, though. I sat on the   inquiry into the impact of COVID on aviation,  and I watched the TWU, in unison with airlines,   call for exactly this sort of package—$1.2 billion  spent on 800,000 seats, to allow Australians to  

fly into the communities that have been the most  heavily impacted by international tourism cuts.   I sat in those hearings and heard union  after union explain that what they wanted   was for their employees to be connected  to their real jobs. They wanted training   and currency so that they remained able to  operate a safe airline industry. We have delivered  

on that. The government has delivered on 800,000  flights—people with their bottoms on seats, flying   around the country—allowing baggage handlers to  work, allowing caterers to work, allowing pilots   and aircrew to work. They will not just  be tied to businesses through JobKeeper   but will actually have their jobs operating. This  will restore confidence in the tourism industry,  

because, thanks to the Labor governments in  Queensland, Victoria and other places shutting   the borders at a moment's notice, there is now  no confidence among Australians to book flights,   because they're worried they'll be trapped  somewhere a long way from home and will have to do   two weeks of quarantine. It is extraordinary to  me that, having delivered on exactly what it is   that industry and the unions, in partnership,  spent days talking about in this inquiry, now,   when it's actually delivered—no, no; they've  got to take another opportunity to be critical   of the government, as we recover from  the worst pandemic in human memory. The other point that I'd add is that, with real  people flying on real planes to real destinations,   every dollar spent on flights equates  to approximately $10 on the ground.   That includes accommodation and experiences,  things like going out to the reef or going out to   Kangaroo Island—where I've never been  but I look forward to going one day—or   buying an ice cream or a meal  in a restaurant. These are all   important multipliers that mean that people are  back engaged in the sort of world that we want. I compare our approach to the approach  of the Queensland Labor government,   which has been engaged in some of the most  shameful political grandstanding I've seen.  

It has used people's genuine health concerns to  drive a stake into the once strongly beating heart   of Queensland's tourism by unilaterally closing  borders, without notice, and, as I said, smashing   consumer confidence. Not only that; it has tried  to blame the federal coalition when we have given   more than $28 billion in support to Queensland  alone, while state Labor has barely been able to   manage to rustle up $8 billion, primarily because  it is broke. Federal Labor would do well to advise   its Queensland arm to get its finances in order  and start delivering for tourism in Queensland. Senator Hanson-Young. I rise to contribute to the debate on   this matter of public importance. What an  absolute shambles this government's tourism  

announcement has been—an absolute shambles. First  of all, within six hours of the announcement,   new destinations had to be added. Adelaide  and Darwin were added. We've heard from those   who work within the broader tourism  industry just how disappointed   they are that, despite all the calls for  action and support, for months and months now,   they've been left with very little. It  might help the big corporate airlines,   but the small tourism operators right across  the country are left with virtually nothing. At the end of this month, those who have been  relying on JobKeeper are not going to be able   to rely on that either. So not only has tourism  slumped in these places; the thing that has been  

keeping many people's heads above water is  about to end as well. The government took its   sweet time getting to a point of announcing  any type of tourism package. Then,   when it was put on the table, it missed the  mark. It delivers for the big end of town   but does nothing for small businesses  in rural, regional and metro areas that   rely week to week, month to month and season to  season on tourism business and tourism dollars. The other key element of the tourism industry that  is still being left out in the cold is the arts   and entertainment industry. Still nothing of any  value has been put on the table by this government   to support artists and entertainers across the  country, despite the fact that it was the arts and   the entertainment industry that was hit by COVID  restrictions when the lockdowns first came in   12 months ago. Venues were closed, events were  cancelled and people were out of work, and they  

are still out of work. Despite the constant  calls for more support from the government,   for inclusion in JobKeeper, for a specific arts  and entertainment package, we still see nothing   of much value from this government.  Senator Farrell has already spoken about   what a shambles even the announcement about being  able to fly to Kangaroo Island was. I must say  

that everybody in South Australia saw  straightaway what an absolute joke   this announcement was. No wonder it had to be  fixed in less than six hours of being made. But overall, I ask this: at the end  of March, when JobKeeper finishes,   hundreds of thousands of people are going to  have their wages cut or will lose their jobs,   and what good is a holiday if you don't have a  job? This government continues to miss the mark   over and over again. Why did we see this  announcement rushed out so quickly late   last week? It was because the Prime Minister knew  that Newspoll was out in the field last weekend.   That's what this was about. This was about trying  to buy some votes, buy some positive publicity,  

and they still stuffed that up. They splash around  $1.2 billion and they can't even get it right—$1.2   billion in order to buy a bit of a bump in  the polls when everything's going pretty   shabbily on their side of government, and this  Prime Minister still can't get it right. Well,   Australians aren't silly and they're not going  to be bought and treated like mugs so easily. We know there are many people who are still doing  it really tough. They've had their wages cut.  

They've lost their jobs. They're desperately  waiting for the season to come back around   so that they can invest in their tourism business  or they can keep working in their casual job.   And, rather than doing what the industry called  for, which was an extension of JobKeeper,   an extension of support across the board for the  tourism industry, for the arts and entertainment   industry, the government decided to look  after the big corporates and the airlines   and have a 'she'll be right' attitude for those  small business operators and casual workers who   actually do all the hard yakka. It is just  unthinkable that the Prime Minister thought   that this was going to be enough to satisfy  workers, to satisfy the Australian people   and to make people think they were serious  about supporting the tourism industry.

The Prime Minister has to go back to  the drawing board. We need a decent   tourism package. We need support  for small and medium businesses,   sole traders, those who have been smashed  economically because of COVID-19. Workers in   industries that rely on tourism—arts and  entertainment, hospitality—need to know the   government are willing to look after them, too.  All they're being told so far is, no, they're not.  

So the Prime Minister has to go back to the  drawing board and come up with something better,   because this ain't it. I ask again:  what good is a half-price holiday   if you don't even have a job? That's the problem  the Prime Minister is not willing to fix. Uh sorry, Senator Polley. Thank you Mr Acting Deputy President. Well,  quite frankly, when the government is in trouble,  

what does the Prime Minister  do? He throws money around. As   the previous contributor to this discussion  said, $1.2 billion has been splashed around,   but he can't even get that right. Is he  really interested in saving jobs? Look at   the destinations in Tasmania that have been  picked for this investment: Burnie, Devonport   and Launceston, which just happen to include two  of the marginal seats held by Liberal members.   Then there was the afterthought to include Hobart.  But Tasmania's mighty tourism sector is at risk,  

and it's at risk because this government has no  plan and it has refused to actually listen to   the sector. Abolishing JobKeeper at the end of  the month will have an impact on over a million   workers, affecting workers not only in my home  state but right across the country. Thousands   of working families in Tasmania are going to  be without jobs or will not be working enough   hours. This investment in the airline  industry, giving people half-price fares,  

is okay if you have a job. But, if you haven't  got a job, it's of no benefit to you at all. The Morrison government made an announcement  on 27 September last year about the   $50 million Recovery for Regional Tourism Fund  to support nine tourism regions that had been   hit hard by the travel restrictions imposed by  COVID-19, and Tasmania was allocated $13.5 million   from this fund. Almost six months later, how much  money has gone to the Tasmanian tourism industry?   Not a cent. In fact, the applications for this  grant don't even close until 30 September 2021.   So once again Prime Minister Morrison is there for  the photo opportunities and the big announcement,   but there's no follow-up. Those in the  struggling tourism sector in Tasmania  

are going to have to wait until at least 2022  before they see any of the $13.5 million for   Tasmania. In the meantime, we know that travel  agents are finding it extremely difficult,   and this injection of funds won't help one  travel agent, because they don't actually make   money out of internal travel. Their money is  made from bookings for international travel and   cruises, so these half-price airfares are  not going to be of any help whatsoever. The government are doing what they do best,  and that is policy on the run. With these  

cheap flights, it is clear to see that their  transparent pork-barrelling in marginal seats   with their latest scheme is a new low. It was  only after lobbying and outrage from the sector   that Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, was added to  the destinations list. Hobart was there and then   it was taken off before it was put back. We've had  sports rorts, we've had community grants rorts and   now we have the flights rort from this government,  which just keeps digging itself into a deeper   and deeper hole. The Australian people aren't  silly. They see through this Prime Minister,   a Prime Minister who has been left wanting  over and over again. He thinks that throwing  

$1.2 billion at this scheme is going to get him  a bump in polls. People will not forget that he   has been left wanting on some of the most serious  questions that this government has had to answer. Senator Polley. Senator Rennick. Thank you Acting Deputy President, It's quite  astounding, the audacity of the Labor Party,   when it comes to criticising the federal  government on support for the tourism   industry and support for the Australian economy  as a whole. This package announced last week by   the Morrison government of $1.2 billion is just a  drop in the ocean compared to what we have spent  

overall. It's interesting that this  time last week I was up in Cairns—I   spent a week up in North Queensland—and the  Palaszczuk government announced $200 vouchers   just for the city of Cairns. Cairns is all Labor  held state seats. Did we come out and accuse   the state Labor government of pork-barrelling  or anything like that? No, absolutely not. All   we happened to point out was that, while the  state government was sticking a whopping $3   million into the economy of Cairns, we had in  the last 12 months injected over $800 million   into the city of Cairns. That's over 25 times  more than what the state Labor government is  

going to be doing over the next few months.  So while the Labor Party is sitting here and   saying the federal government is putting the  tourist sector at risk it's not true at all. It's worth noting that, if  industry has been impacted,   it's been by the inconsistencies displayed by  the state governments, especially the state Labor   governments. In the main, it's been the state  Labor governments—the three big ones of Victoria,   Queensland and WA—who've kept their borders closed  and who've kept flip-flopping as to when borders   are open and when borders are closed. It was  interesting that, just at the start of this year,  

I got an enormous amount of feedback. I got  trolled big-time by the Labor trolls and the   digital lynch mob on social media. But late  last year we had the chief medical officer of   Queensland come out and say: 'We don't need to  lock down again. We've got this under control.'   We went for 130 days with no cases and then we  had just one case in quarantine—so the source   of it was known—and what did the Queensland  Premier do? At nine o'clock on Friday morning,   she came out and said she was going to lock down  the city of Brisbane, over two million people, at   five o'clock that afternoon. Thousands of workers  in the hospitality industry were directly impacted   by that. We have to remember that this was the  first week back this year. A lot of businesses  

were restarting. They were going to make a fresh  start in a new year. They got to Friday and the   first weekend of the year and what happened?  The state Labor government shut down Brisbane,   resulting in thousands and, I suspect, millions  of dollars in losses for the hospitality industry. We were talking about the aviation sector. We  had the CEO of Virgin come out and call for   the state governments to have a consistent  framework in regard to (1) border closures   and (2) the restrictions on hospitality venues  across the country. I also have a very good friend   of mine who is a leading Australian musician  who has personally called me and asked for   some consistency in the restrictions across the  states. He had a gig to play in Adelaide. I got   a call from him on the weekend, going back a  few weeks. He had a gig to play in Adelaide.  

South Australia shut the border with Victoria  again and, suddenly, he was short a bass player.   The event was all booked and then he had  to ring around and try to find someone   to come and play at that event. This the sort  of inconsistency that is leading to a lack of   confidence in the hospitality sector  and the tourism sector in opening up. It is worth noting that, as we head into winter  this year, this is a fantastic opportunity for   southerners, especially from New South Wales and  Victoria, to fly north to Queensland. They would   have loved to have done that last year, and at  one point the Premier opened up and then closed   down again. But this is the perfect opportunity  to keep the borders open this year. What we have   to remember with the tourism sector is, for about  the last 15 years, more people have left Australia   than entered Australia. We've actually had a  deficit in the tourist numbers. So what we have  

is a net tourist deficit—that is, more departures  than arrivals. So there is an opportunity   now with the international borders closed to  promote internal tourism across the country. There's an opportunity for the higher spenders  who normally would go overseas to come up to   Queensland or vice versa. It is very important  that the state premiers apply consistency. We've   now got the vaccine rolling out. Hopefully,  as the year rolls on, we'll get that out.   We should have contact tracing and testing in  place. We've got our numbers across the country   down to single digits outside of quarantine.  So there is absolutely no reason why the  

state premiers can't give some confidence to our  hospitality industry and to our tourism sector. It was interesting. I note Senator  Polley said before that you've got   to have a job to be able to spend money  to go on a holiday. I thought to myself,   'You've actually got to have a job to get  superannuation as well.' One thing I'm not   going to take from the Labor Party is the lack  of universality in this particular package,   given that they promote superannuation  despite the fact that unemployed people,   stay-at-home mums and people on a disability  pension don't get superannuation either.

The other thing, of course, is the idea  that tourist operators will miss out on   this. It is not true. People aren't going to go  travelling and do nothing when they get there.   For example, they'll arrive in Cairns. They'll  book a scuba diving trip. They might book a trip   up to Port Douglas. They might go out on a boat.  They might take some tours inland to see Daintree  

forest. For all of those things they can walk in  off the street if they want to book something,   so there is still opportunity for travel agents  to get some spin-off effects of this. Likewise,   they're not going to sit in their hotel room and  eat room service every night; they're going to go   out and they're going to eat at these venues. So  the idea that this money has been misallocated or   wasted is just more fearmongering and  negativity from those opposite us.   Quite frankly, I think the whole premise on  which this MPI is based is completely false. I touched on the numbers before in  Cairns and I'll touch on them again.  

The state Labor government is putting  $3 million into Cairns for tourism.   In the last year alone the federal government has  put over $800 million in. But, if we just look at   Queensland overall, the federal government has  put $28.5 billion into Queensland. What has the  

state Labor government done? They're putting in  a measly $8.8 billion over the forward estimates. If the Labor Party and their state Labor  colleagues are so worried about creating jobs,   let me tell you the one key message I got out of  North Queensland last week: 'We need more water.'   The state Labor government has only built two  dams in the last 30 years. For one of those dams,   Paradise Dam, they're not quite pulling it  down, but they're halving the size of the wall.   They're going to reduce the size of  that dam. In one dam in Beaudesert  

they've got the water wrong and the water  is brackish. The people of North Queensland   are calling out for more water security. I  saw the Mayor of Port Douglas last weekend.   He needs a lake. Port Douglas could run out of  water very soon if the state Labor government   doesn't get busy and build a bigger lake for Port  Douglas to have some water supply. So there is   great opportunity here to take that capacity  in the labour market and go build some dams.

I'm happy to go the Treasurer and get  an infrastructure bank up and running   to fund the states to build these dams, but  we've got to remember it's wealth for toil.   Here is the opportunity to create more,  long-lasting jobs. There are so many benefits   of water security. We get irrigation. There  are benefits for agriculture. We get clean,  

green hydro energy. How good is that? We get  flood mitigation. That will help reduce risk   and reduce insurance costs in North Queensland.  We get recreational activities like water skiing.   I know that in my hometown of Chinchilla on the  weekends we used to all go out to the weir and   do water skiing and kayak back up the mighty  Condamine. So there is a great opportunity here   to get busy and build dams. It's wealth for  toil. It's not wealth for whingeing and wailing,   which is all we ever seem to get from the Labor  Party. It's about time they got with the problem   and started to look forward and have a vision  for this country, rather than looking backwards.

Senator Walsh. Thank you Acting Deputy President. Over a  million Australians are employed in our tourism   industry, a sector which is  critical for our economy as a whole   and is especially important for those regional  communities which rely almost entirely   on tourism. We know that the sector has been doing  it extremely hard because of COVID. This has real   impacts for regional communities and also for the  individuals, the families, the households who rely   on the JobKeeper lifeline right now. While many  sectors hit by COVID have begun to recover,  

tourism is different. It will continue to need  help until domestic and international travel   fully resume. JobKeeper has been absolutely  vital for the sector, and that is exactly   why the Labor Party argued so strongly for the  JobKeeper program. But we still haven't seen a  

plan from the government for the good, secure  jobs that are needed to replace JobKeeper. In Victoria alone, it is estimated that  over 300,000 jobs in tourism, transport and   hospitality are at risk today without JobKeeper.  It absolutely beggars belief that the government   has announced a tourism package that will not  protect jobs, that doesn't respond to the needs   the industry itself has identified, that has  been met with disappointment and confusion by   tourism operators in regional communities, and  that actually encourages Victorians to abandon   their plans to travel to their own tourist  towns and instead take a flight interstate.   The Victorian tourism minister, Martin Pakula,  has written to his federal counterpart asking   that four extra destinations be included in the  government's poorly targeted tourism package.   Minister Pakula has been frank in saying,  'Somewhere in the Canberra bubble there   seems to be a misunderstanding of how Victorian  tourism works.' He went on to say, 'Regional and   metropolitan tourism recovery is too important  for it to be coloured by the electoral map.'  

Victoria has asked the federal tourism minister  to include in the scheme Melbourne Airport as   well as the regional airports in Mildura,  Bendigo and Albury in New South Wales.   Given the government's on-again, off-again  naming of locations in this scheme,   Victorians will have to watch closely  to see whether their airports and towns   make it onto the list, and indeed, if  they do, whether they stay on the list. Let's face it: this scheme is an absolute shambles  and it has been a shambles from day one. The   Deputy Prime Minister's shambolic interview over  the weekend failed to reassure tourism operators,   or anyone else for that matter, that the  government has a plan to get local economies   back on track. This scheme is a politicised  vote-buying exercise. That is what it is.   It is not a jobs plan. It is a politicised  vote-buying scheme put forward by this government.

What Victorians want is a federal government that  will actually support a plan for real recovery   that will look after the people of Victoria and  that will back the tourism operators and make   sure local jobs are protected. Victorian regional  communities are definitely doing it tough. They   need a federal government that backs them up. The  people in regions who rely on tourism need a real   plan from this government. They absolutely deserve  better from the government. There are just too   many Victorians employed in this industry to let  it fail under this shambolic government scheme. Thank you Senator. Senator Henderson.

Thank you very much Madam Acting Deputy  President. I rise to speak on this MPI.   I want to condemn the Labor Party for  the economically reckless position   it has adopted in opposing the  Morrison government's $1.2 billion   aviation and tourism package. I'm a proud  Victorian senator and I'm very disappointed   by the contribution of Senator Walsh, who clearly  does not understand what is going on in Victoria.

Last Friday I visited the Great Ocean  Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery.   It's a business which is based in three  different locations: the Mornington Peninsula,   the Yarra Valley and on the Great Ocean Road near  Anglesea. When Daniel Andrews imposed the snap,   five-day lockdown across Victoria, when there was  not one regional COVID case anywhere in our state,   this business lost $300,000 in five days.   There were countless businesses in Victoria  which suffered on the Valentine's Day weekend:   accommodation providers, tourist parks and  tourist destinations, like the chocolaterie.   I have not heard Labor senators in this place   speak out about the enormous economic damage that  Victorian businesses have suffered as a result   of unnecessary restrictions in Victoria,  including the last five-day lockdown.   That lockdown cost our state $1 billion. So  perhaps, if Senator Walsh had done her homework,  

she would understand that businesses like  the chocolaterie depend on a clientele   from interstate which amounts to some  22 per cent of their overall clientele. After the most exceptionally difficult year,  Ian and Leanne Neeland back this package.   They believe that half-price tickets to Avalon  Airport, commencing on 1 April, will make a   difference. Why will it make a difference? It  is because tourism businesses cannot function or   operate without tourists. Since the confidence of  so many tourists has been destroyed—so many people   are reluctant to cross the border into Victoria  because of the way the border lockdowns have been   managed in Victoria—this is not just a huge  incentive to come to Victoria, into Avalon   from places like Queensland and Sydney,  but this is a great confidence booster.  

As Ian Neeland said: 'Anything that can be done  to attract more people to the region is really   welcome. Almost 22 per cent of our customers pre  COVID were from interstate, and now there are   virtually none. Just imagine having more than  20 per cent of your customer base wiped out?   They need confidence to travel and  perhaps this package can be helpful.' The bottom line is that passenger arrivals to  Avalon Airport fell over 72 per cent in 2020   due to COVID. Our region's  tourism sector employs some   17,000 people just in the Geelong and the Great  Ocean Road regions, and it contributes almost   a billion dollars to the local economy. Already  we've seen the support package prompting a 75 per   cent increase in the number of Australians  searching for domestic holidays online.  

I absolutely condemn the partisan attack by the  member for Corio, Mr Marles, and the current   member for Corangamite, Ms Coker, who have  once again failed to stand up for our region.   In asserting that this package is too  focused on marginal seats, Labor continues   to put politics ahead of constituents in  the Corio and Corangamite electorates. Avalon Airport is deep in the heart of the Corio  electorate. It services the Wyndham region—Western   Melbourne, it services Southwest Victoria and it  services much of Victoria because it's so easy to   fly in and out of. We in the Morrison government  are so proud of the work we have done to stand up   for regional tourism through our Geelong City Deal  and through our investment in the international   terminal at Avalon Airport, creating Victoria's  second international airport. I absolutely say   to Mr Marles that with the majority of workers  at Avalon Airport coming from the Corio and Lalor   electorates, and with so many businesses in our  region dependent on tourists coming to our region,   Labor's failure to back half-price tickets  to Avalon and all the other airports we have   designated shows a reckless disregard for  the tourism and hospitality sectors. So,  

I call on as many Australians as possible to  visit our region, to eat in our restaurants,   to sample our wineries, to spend  up big and, of course, to visit   wonderful tourist attractions like the Great  Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. It is rather interesting: Mr Albanese visited  Corangamite last Friday, and it was all   negativity and no solutions. He was accompanied  by the current member for Corangamite—someone   who failed to back fast rail between Melbourne and  Geelong, someone who stood shoulder to shoulder   with Mr Shorten and his $387 million of taxes and  is now embroiled in a grubby war with the CFMEU,   which is demanding that the member for Corangamite  repay hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

She backed a state Labor Geelong City  Deal that did not include one project   in Corangamite. She failed to speak up about  the restrictions that caused so much grief   in regional communities right across  Victoria, including in Corangamite.   She failed to say a thing to stand up to  the Victorian Labor government when they   shut down the Rip Curl classic, which has now  moved to New South Wales, costing local businesses   in Torquay, Jan Juc, Bellbrae and across the Surf  Coast countless hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

She even failed to stand up and speak  out against the human rights abuses   in Victoria, when people were shut in their  homes with no notice—most notably, those shut   in the public housing towers. And now Ms Coker is  failing to stand up for tourism businesses—hotels,   pubs, cafes and restaurants—which  need tourists. They need a market. This is a very important package for our country.  It includes a whole range of different elements.   Of course there are the $800,000 half-price  tickets, and the government and the Prime Minister   have made it very clear that if there is a case  for further airports to be added then we will do   so. But how ridiculous of Minister Pakula to be  advocating for Tullamarine Airport to be included   in this package—so that business travellers  can have their tickets to Melbourne subsidised?   Already we are seeing hotels in Melbourne  subsidised to the tune of $1 million because   of the hotel quarantine program, which  is actually not currently being used.  

We have seen an absolute disaster  with the hotel quarantine program   in Victoria, which has led to more than  800 deaths. Frankly, when you compare   the fact that our government has stood  shoulder to shoulder with all Victorians,   delivering in excess of $40 billion of support,  I condemn Labor for rejecting this package. This is not just important for hotels and pubs  and cafes in our important regional tourist   areas. It's important for the viability of our  airlines. It's important for airline workers.   It's important for travel agents. And  it's important for businesses that now  

can access a new government backed loan  scheme, where the government is backing   these loans to the tune of up to 80 per  cent. This is an incredibly important spend   for our country—$1.2 billion, including  for regional Victoria—and I condemn   the Labor Party for opposing this critically  important rescue package, thank you.

Senator Brown. Thank you Mr Acting Deputy President. I rise to  speak on the impact that the removal of JobKeeper   will have on the tourism sector and  the wider economy, particularly in   my home state of Tasmania. But I won't let an  opportunity go by to comment just quickly on   Senator Henderson's contribution. I really have to  wonder whether Senator Henderson has got over the   fact that the people of Corangamite just prefer  Ms Coker. They chose Ms Coker to represent them.  

And I really think there was a reason for  that: because Ms Coker is an extraordinary   local member—hardworking, passionate  and committed to her electorate. One of the things that has been  said in this debate is around the   areas that have been selected.   Anyone, if they were fair dinkum, would say that  the announcement of this initiative was a failure.   It's amazing to me that government members  and senators come up and try to spin the fact   that extra areas, extra cities and extra towns  have been added because they made a case.   We know that's not correct. We know that there was  a list put out there—accidentally, presumably—and   then, suddenly, the official list was  reduced by three cities, which included   Hobart in my home state of Tasmania.  Come on! You've got to wonder.

This government has mucked up so much. They have  failed in so many ways in terms of initiatives   and funding and grants that don't reach where  they're supposed to be reaching. They don't   reach the communities they're supposed to  be reaching. They don't reach the people  

they're supposed to be reaching.  This announcement is no different.   The government are saying to the Australian people  24 hours later, 'Oh, we've had representations   and we're going to add Adelaide and Darwin',  and then, three days later, after the original   announcement, 'We're going to add Hobart.' It is  nothing to do with people jumping up and down,   the tourism industry jumping up and down or the  Labor politicians in Tasmania jumping up and down,   saying, 'Why isn't Hobart on there?'  You know, so here we are—Sorry?   Senator Brown just ignore the interjections.  I think that is exactly what I'm saying:   we had people jumping up and down and the  government realising once again that they had made   an error and mucked up the whole announcement,  and there was the fact that the original list   was tweeted out. You've got to ask: was this all  about marginal seats? Unfortunately, this is what   this government is all about. It's all about  politics first. It's not about the people. It's  

not about the community. That is why they have  continued to—Senator Brown your time has expired. Senator McCarthy. Hear, hear, Senator Brown! Hear, hear. I would  like to speak about the Northern Territory.   Tourism is the lifeblood of the Northern  Territory. Mr Acting Deputy President, in 2018-19   tourism directly employed 8,400 people in the  Territory; that's 6.3 per cent of overall Northern  

Territory employment. It supported 15,600 jobs,  or 11.8 per cent of the region's total employment.   In the same period, total tourism gross state  produce, GSP, was $2.6 billion, or 9.5 per cent   of GSP. You can see by these figures that tourism  is a critical part of our economy in the north.

While the Territory has done a remarkable job in  keeping us safe from COVID, our tourism industry   has been hit hard. You only have to see the  stories in recent months, in particular around our   icons, our jewels, of the Northern Territory in  terms of the national parks of Uluru and Kakadu.   Let's not forget all the others in the tourism  industry of the Northern Territory—hospitality,   the hotels, accommodation, the cafes, the stores,  the campgrounds, the caravan parks. They are so   vital, in particular in the Top End as  we prepare for the dry season, which is,   in terms of the north, a very critical time  for having people come up, spend their money   and get away from the cold climates  in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.

This government's refusal to listen to the tourism  industry ahead of cutting off JobKeeper kicks them   when they're down. Added to the list were Alice  Springs, Uluru and Darwin at the last minute.   Was there a bit of confusion? Was Darwin  there initially but taken off and then   put back on because of the cries that  the Northern Territory was missing out?   It's great that Darwin is back on,  don't get me wrong, but the confusion   around that upset people even more. People  thought, 'We obviously don't matter.'   These places were added at the last minute  and included in the half-price airfare scheme.   How is it going to impact tour operators,  cafes, restaurants, accommodation providers,   retailers, taxi drivers and hire car  companies? All of this is still unknown. It is astounding that the government is expecting  cash-strapped Australians to spend their own money   trying to save our tourism industry when it  won't do the same. It might shock members   of the government to learn that many Australian  families cannot afford the airfares to Darwin or   Alice Springs, even at half price. It would cost  a family of four over $2,000 to fly from Sydney  

or Melbourne to Alice Springs at current prices.  That doesn't include the cost of accommodation,   tours and the rest. Whilst I highly recommend  people visit us in the Northern Territory,   the fact is that many Australian families  just can't afford this at the moment. Territory businesses are worried.  They're staring at an uncertain future,   especially in the regional centres of  the Northern Territory. The Northern  

Territory government's tourism voucher scheme has  assisted many to stay afloat. I certainly commend   the Territory government for that. Companies  that rely heavily on international visitation,   like bus and tour operators, are looking at grim  times. The owners of businesses like Emu Run,  

Uluru Camel Tours and Wayoutback Australian  Safaris are going to be forced to make some   very tough decisions with JobKeeper  ending on 28 March. Time has expired. Senator Sheldon. Thank you Acting Deputy President, well last  week we saw the public treated to a live set   of the Prime Minister's greatest hits—selective  pork-barrelling, corporate welfare and policy by   photo-op. After a year of unimaginable anxiety and  uncertainty, aviation and tourism industry workers   tuned into the morning news to see the Prime  Minister grinning at them from an A330 Airbus,   brandishing a novelty-sized boarding pass.  'Our ticket to recovery,' he said. He called it   the aviation package, except that it wasn't. The  Morrison government's ticket to recovery was in  

fact a cynical attempt to buy votes in marginal  seats and give millions more of public money   to Qantas and Virgin, all with no requirement that  Qantas keep their staff connected to their jobs.   This attempt by the government is socialism for  the rich and powerful while the working people   of this country get next to nothing. There are  no guarantees and no obligations on the money   that's being handed out. No sector of the  economy has suffered more during the COVID-19  

pandemic than the aviation sector, yet the  Australian government has consistently sold   those workers short. It has sold them out again  with this announcement. At every opportunity the   Prime Minister has had to give these workers  a helping hand, he has pulled that hand away. A recent report from the OECD on COVID-19  support for the aviation industry ranks   the Morrison government 18th out of 28 OECD  countries. That is 18th out of 28 in the OECD.   We're behind the Netherlands, the US, the UK,  Switzerland and even Portugal. As a direct  

result of the Morrison government abandoning  the aviation sector Australia has recorded   one of the highest rates of job losses in the  sector, at over 30 per cent, compared to just   19.5 per cent in the United States and 15 per  cent in Singapore. How do you get the airline   industry back up and running at short notice  to make sure that we're ready after COVID? The stories have been spoken far and wide,  largely about abandonment by this government.   There are heartbreaking stories of workers,  like catering and cleaning workers at dnata.   The Morrison government excluded those workers  from the JobKeeper program. There are the   ground handlers with decades of dedicated  service to Qantas, who saw their roles   outsourced in the middle of the pandemic. We heard  from Peter Seymour during a recent Senate inquiry.  

Peter was a Qantas employee for 31 years,  towing aircraft between hangars and terminals.   In 2019, Peter was diagnosed with stage 5  prostate cancer. He continued to work for Qantas,   until the side effects of his radiation therapy  made this impossible and he went onto sick leave.  

In the middle of the pandemic, Qantas took Peter  off sick leave—off sick leave! He was forced   to return to work to pay the bills, until  he was forced to take redundancy. He said: I was put in this position  by Qantas, not COVID—Qantas. Desiree, another worker who has  been outsourced by Qantas, said: I cannot explain to you what  that stress has meant to me,   and I don't think my happiness  will ever be restored. Peter and Desiree, like thousands of  other workers, have been abandoned by   this government for pork barrelling, novelty  boarding passes and gimmicky photo-ops.  

We need 'AviationKeeper' and I urge the  Morrison government to finally step up. Thank you Senator Sheldon. Time  for discussion has expired.

2021-03-24 14:29

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