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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 7101

Mr LINDSAY (9:30 AM) —Residents of Townsville have woken up to find that the USS Essex will not be coming to Townsville next week because the port cannot accommodate this huge American warship. At times of such great economic struggle around the country, particularly in Townsville, the visit of an American warship is no small thing for our community. Generally, it is worth about $93 per head of population in Townsville when a ship of that size comes into port. While often the first thing that comes to mind is our great young American friends having a good time and exploring the world in between long bouts at sea, what we often forget is the positive and sometimes crucial economic impact that this can have on our local community.

The planned visit by the USS Essex to Townsville next week would have delivered exactly that, and the figures are eye opening. A visit of nearly 4,000 people would have represented a temporary surge of almost three per cent in the local economy through an eight-day injection of between $10 million and $14 million. Almost everyone would have stood to gain: hotels, restaurants, taxis, tour operators. Even the Cowboys, the most popular team in the league now, would have had an enthusiastic, though ill-informed, sporting audience. I might say, for those here from New South Wales, that the captain of the Cowboys, Jonathan Thurston, will lead Queensland to victory in the State of Origin tonight.

Townsville next week will not be greeting the ship that has had a long and proud history with Australia, a ship that has always participated in the biennial joint military exercises off the north coast and that in 2001-02 helped us to directly support the East Timor peace process. Indeed, it will steam further north to, dare I say it, dock in Cairns, with the Townsville dock overcrowded with other commercial operators.

The state member for Thuringowa was quoted in the paper this morning as saying that this is all my fault because I opposed the development of a cruise ship terminal. That is entirely wrong; I did no such thing. The state government did a dodgy deal with one of the white-shoe brigade on the Gold Coast to build a residential development of 1,000 residences adjacent to the Townsville port as well as to build the cruise ship terminal. It was entirely inappropriate. The whole community, to a person, said, ‘It is inappropriate to have a residential development adjacent to an operating port because of the problems that will occur in the years to come.’ I certainly opposed that but I have never opposed a cruise ship terminal being built in Townsville—in fact, I helped secure defence money to make it a multiuser terminal so that ships like the USS Essex could visit Townsville and bring the goodwill that often follows from such important visits by our foreign neighbours.