Palaszczuk’s border insecurity is sinking tourism

You'd be forgiven for thinking the Palaszczuk Government doesn't care about tourism or the hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders the industry employs.

Extending a lifeline of $50 million would be laughable if the situation wasn't so dire.

Perhaps the Premier sees no point in spending significant money on a sector that could be all but washed up by September when our borders may, or may not, be open.

Then again, she's offered four times that much to help save an airline in strife well before COVID-19 came along.

This week, in a stab at rebooting our economy, Annastacia Palaszczuk pledged $400 million to road works, $200 million to council infrastructure and $100 million to small business.

The $50 million allocated to tourism is piffle by comparison, especially in light of Australian Taxation Office data showing this industry is the hardest hit by COVID-19, with one-third of jobs lost in accommodation and food services.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s $50 million lifeline would be laughable if the situation wasn’t so dire. Picture: Liam Kidston
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s $50 million lifeline would be laughable if the situation wasn’t so dire. Picture: Liam Kidston

That sort of money won't go far. Consider the rebuild of Great Keppel Island Resort, one of just 20 projects identified by the Queensland Tourism Industry Council as integral to bouncing back. It will cost $2 billion.

As for the Sunshine Coast's new waterpark and eco-resort which everyone has been talking up this week, including Tourism Minister Kate Jones, that $65 million is coming from a private company with links to uber-rich Dubai.

World-class infrastructure, which is what QTIC chief executive Daniel Gschwind says the industry desperately needs, costs big bucks.

Mr Gschwind says now is the time to rise from "total disruption" and "rebuild better than ever".

I wish him luck, with what our government is offering.

Tourism is an industry we can ill afford to lose. Ditto a diminished one.

Until COVID-19, it was a powerhouse, contributing $25 billion to the Queensland economy, according to the Government's own figures.

It employed 217,000 Queenslanders, almost 10 per cent of all workers.

More than 26 million domestic and international overnight visitors came here each year, making ours the second largest tourism market in Australia.

China was our fastest growing inbound market.

Visiting the Great Barrier Reef was a huge drawcard for international tourists to Australia. Picture: supplied
Visiting the Great Barrier Reef was a huge drawcard for international tourists to Australia. Picture: supplied

Now, tourism is tanking, due to a virus that originated in the very country whose tourism dollars we coveted.

The smartest and swiftest way to kickstart our industry - and help the national economy - is to reopen our borders.

It doesn't have to happen today - July 10 as per the government's originally communicated plan would do - but September is folly.

Some have suggested Ms Palaszczuk is stalling on a date because she wants to drag it out closer to the October 31 election and hog the limelight, play the hero and win votes.

That too would be folly.

Queenslanders won't be forgetting how schools remained closed due to union thuggery, or the integrity scandals that should have sent Jackie Trad packing sooner.

They'll be remembering the economic hardship and the lifestyle restrictions they were forced to endure longer than necessary because the person in charge was constantly deferring to someone else.

In defending her mixed messages on a border date, Ms Palaszczuk says she will not reject the advice of the Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young. The Premier would do better to question it.

Chief Health Officer of Queensland Dr Jeannette Young. Photo: Liam Kidston
Chief Health Officer of Queensland Dr Jeannette Young. Photo: Liam Kidston

Dr Young - who has done a measured job overall - has made a few stunning calls.

Waiving a 10-person limit at funeral gatherings so that up to 80 could mourn an Indigenous leader in early April is one.

Banning four pilots, in separate planes, from doing a fly-past to honour veterans on Anzac Day is another.

And the real clanger - allowing crowds to turn up to vote in the March 28 local government elections (and two state by-elections) back when public gatherings were restricted to two people.

Now that the curve has been well and truly flattened, Queensland needs to get back to business, with tourism.

We've been warned of a second wave, that we haven't seen the last of COVID-19, but that should not mean we shut out the rest of Australia.

If the National Cabinet says borders can be open and it's safe to travel domestically, and if Queenslanders can freely visit other states, then what's the real issue here?

Kylie Lang is associate editor of The Courier-Mail

kylie.lang@news.com.au

Originally published as Palaszczuk's border insecurity is sinking tourism


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