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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2664

Senator McLUCAS (QueenslandParliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers) (18:22): 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—

Senator Ian Macdonald: Ms Bligh has had 22 years and she hasn't dredged yet.

Senator McLUCAS: 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.