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Wednesday, 10 June 2020
Page: 2677


Senator WATT (Queensland) (20:17): Like many other parts of Queensland the Gold Coast is having a very tough time at the moment. Key industries, like tourism and construction, are really feeling the pinch in the wake of COVID-19. The Gold Coast, in fact, lost 22,700 jobs in just over a month at the height of the industry shutdowns. Three of the top 10 federal electorates around the country in terms of job losses have been on the Gold Coast—all of those electorates, of course, are held by LNP members of this government.

The nature of the Gold Coast economy, with such a high proportion of people employed in tourism, hospitality, the arts, recreation and construction, means that it does have a very high casual workforce. Nearly 30,000 casuals on the Gold Coast have been employed for less than 12 months, reflecting the transient nature of work on the Gold Coast. In terms of regions in Queensland, the Gold Coast is second only to Brisbane in terms of the number of short-term casuals employed. Of course, these are the people who have been excluded from JobKeeper under the Morrison government. Many of them, in fact, don't even qualify for jobseeker, so they're left with no support whatsoever from this government.

It's been well recognised that Labor tried very hard to get the government to include short-term casuals in the JobKeeper payment, but the government refused—and when I say 'the government' what I mean is every single LNP member on the Gold Coast. We were not the only people to try to include short-term casuals in the JobKeeper payment. Some of the Gold Coast tourism leaders, like Annaliese Battista from Destination Gold Coast, have previously gone public. She said that she had hoped that the government would extend JobKeeper to short-term casuals given the importance of those people to the Gold Coast economy and given how many there are. In fact, just today we've seen the Australian Tourism Industry Council call on this government to extend the JobKeeper payment to the end of the year, given that international borders will remain closed for some time to come.

Tourism industry leaders in Australia and on the Gold Coast get the fact that the restrictions around JobKeeper, whether it's the categories who've been excluded or the time limits, put in place a very real risk for the Gold Coast economy. Once we hit September, when JobKeeper is due to be wound back, the Gold Coast economy and all of the workers employed there will be at very real risk.

While Labor has been vocal about this and while many figures in the tourism industry have also been vocal, one group has been conspicuously silent, and that's the Gold Coast LNP members of parliament. What have we heard from them about JobKeeper? Absolutely nothing—not a peep for the 30,000 casuals left behind on the Gold Coast and not a peep for the uni workers, the arts and entertainment workers, the council workers or the New Zealand citizens excluded from JobKeeper. Apparently some of the LNP members do acknowledge that this is a bit of an issue. The member for Moncrieff, Angie Bell, has said that the only thing keeping Gold Coast businesses going is the JobKeeper payment. So, again, the test is really there for the LNP members as to whether they will support the JobKeeper payment beyond September and keep these Gold Coast workers afloat.

It's not surprising that the Gold Coast LNP members are being silent on JobKeeper and the needs of Gold Coast workers. They were also silent when Virgin was going down. They didn't do anything. They didn't lift a finger to convince their own government to put some support behind Virgin and keep it afloat, despite the fact that the Gold Coast tourism economy is incredibly dependent on Virgin flights. So, yet again, we have more examples of the Gold Coast LNP members taking the Gold Coast for granted. They say that they care about tourism jobs, but they went missing in action when it really counted.

Senator Rennick interjecting

Senator WATT: It's interesting that Senator Rennick would join us at this point in time, chirping away. He'll be going on about communists soon. And of course he's doing exactly what I was coming to: rather than have Queensland's LNP representatives come down to Canberra and take on their government about extending the JobKeeper payments to short-term casuals, about doing something to keep Virgin alive, all they actually want to do is fight some war with the Queensland government about reopening the borders, despite the fact that the Queensland Chief Health Officer—someone who knows a lot more about health than you or me, Senator Rennick—advises that that would be an unsafe thing to do at the moment.

We all recognise that businesses are doing it tough, and we all want the borders open as soon as possible. But let's not pretend that the only thing standing in the way of the success of the Gold Coast economy and Gold Coast workers is the borders. How about we see some action from the LNP on JobKeeper and on tourism support in general? (Time expired)