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Thursday, 13 February 2020
Page: 1073

Senator WATT (Queensland) (17:40): I rise to speak on one of the new threats facing the Queensland tourism industry at the moment, and that's the deadly coronavirus. I think we've all been very concerned to see the news reports of the risk it poses to human health, obviously beginning in China but now also much closer to home. As of today, there are 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, including five on the Gold Coast, where my office is based. Media reports suggest that the Gold Coast economy alone has lost up to $500 million in the two weeks since the outbreak. This is predominantly being felt in the tourism industry and in industries that are reliant on tourism. The Gold Coast and Cairns in particular are major tourism destinations in Australia which have felt the brunt of coronavirus and the impact of reduced visitors, particularly from China.

China is the Gold Coast's biggest source of international visitors, and this loss of tourism from China has forced traders in the tourism industry to reduce staff hours. So this is being felt not only by business owners but also by their staff, who are losing hours, and that will have a wider impact on the Gold Coast economy because people who live there won't have as much money to put through the tills of local shops and businesses. It's crucial that we see the federal government actually step up, recognise the risk of this crisis to the Gold Coast tourism economy and start doing something. I've been sitting here for two weeks now, waiting for the federal government to do something about the impact of the coronavirus on the tourism industry in places like the Gold Coast and Cairns. We are at the end of two weeks of sittings and we have not seen anything done. I've got criticisms to make of the government's support for the tourism industry arising from the bushfire crisis, but we haven't seen anything at all from the government here in Canberra about what needs to be done to assist the tourism industry and the thousands of jobs it supports in Queensland because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Senator Green spoke about this as well, particularly the impact on the tourism industry in her home town of Cairns, but I would like to particularly focus on what's happening on the Gold Coast. I think it's fair enough to ask the question: what are our Gold Coast federal members of parliament doing about this here in Canberra? The LNP holds every seat on the Gold Coast. Every single member of parliament representing the Gold Coast in the House of Representatives is a member of this government. What are they actually doing to fix this? Today's report in the Gold Coast Bulletin says they are taking the massive step of hatching a plan. So, after weeks of knowing that this is a major problem for the tourism industry on the Gold Coast, the best that we can get from the five federal members who represent the Gold Coast here in Canberra is that they are sitting around hatching a plan. Well, fantastic! Isn't that really going to help the tourism industry on the Gold Coast? It's not enough to hatch a plan; they've got to start delivering support now.

Now, why is it that our Gold Coast members of parliament—all five of them—can't get anything done and can't get a single dollar out of their government to support the tourism industry on the Gold Coast? The only conclusion I can come to is that they, like every other member of this government, are so distracted by the division within the government at the moment that they can't get on with the job and produce the support that their own local areas need. All week we've seen more shenanigans within the National Party—more shenanigans within the LNP distracting people's attention. We saw last night reports emerging that members of the LNP who sit here in Canberra are thinking about setting up their own party room—maybe Senator McGrath might be part of that as well—rather than sit with the Liberal Party or the National Party.

I don't think that, if I were working in the tourism industry on the Gold Coast, I would care whether members sit in the Liberal Party, the National Party or the LNP. What I would care about is actually seeing those members of parliament come to Canberra and demand that their ministers actually start producing some support right now for the tourism industry.

This level of division that we're seeing in Canberra is also affecting the LNP right on the Gold Coast. The division we're seeing in Canberra within the LNP is being replicated on the Gold Coast. We're seeing a by-election for the state parliament seat of Currumbin at the end of March and, just like what was happening here in Canberra over the past fortnight, we're seeing division there as well. There is immense division within the LNP, distracting them from what people actually want to get done in Currumbin. They're running a candidate who no-one in the Currumbin area actually knows or supports. They are so distracted— (Time expired)