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Thursday, 20 October 1983
Page: 2056

Mr LINDSAY(8.20) —It was in 1922 that Hudson Fysh and P. J. McGuinness first secured a mail contract for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd. The contract required a regular schedule of services between Charleville, Longreach and Cloncurry in north Queensland. The first passenger on the 310 mile Longreach to Cloncurry sector was an 87-year-old grazier named Alexander Kennedy. Excited by the idea of an air service, he had become one of the earliest investors in Qantas. At the end of the 4 1/2 hour flight, Kennedy recalled that when he had first made the same trip 53 years earlier in an ox cart it had taken eight months. The faith and loyalty of Alexander Kennedy and other north Queensland people in Qantas was evident, even at that time.

Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service Ltd was sustained by the people of North Queensland during the company's infant years. The company extended its operations, and Townsville became one of the ports for the airline' s flying boat services from Australia to South East Asia in the 1940s. However, the growth of international air traffic in the 1960s and 1970s was concentrated in the capital cities funnelling international visitors into the golden triangle of south-eastern Australia. North Queenslanders welcomed the interest shared by the Whitlam Government in the introduction of international services to Townsville. Progress was stalled when the Fraser Government came to power.

As an alderman of the Townsville City Council, I was deeply concerned at the slow down of the local economy in the second half of the 1970s. With this in mind I was instrumental in the establishment in 1979 of the North Queensland Airports Development Council, comprising parliamentary, tourist and local government representatives, with the prime objective of upgrading airport facilities and initiating international flights into north Queensland. Our vigorous lobbying produced results. Ansett Airlines of Australia, under its new management, showed interest in flying from Townsville to South East Asia, a move which precipitated the Qantas Airways Ltd decision to begin flights into Townsville with Boeing 747SP aircraft from February 1981. But central to all planning for tourist development was the decision by the Bjelke-Petersen Government to award one of its two casino licences to the Breakwater casino project promoted by the Thiess family company, Drayton Investments Pty Ltd. Amidst much ballyhoo, the Queensland Government successfully enticed many investors to Townsville and there lay a foundation for a tourism infrastructure to meet the expected demand of international visitors and casino patrons. Furthermore, a group of enterprising local Townsville citizens proposed a project of breathtaking attraction. This was the Reef World Project to be located at Townsville and to house living coral reef and other facilities to enable people to see at first hand the variety and beauty of coral reefs.

With the casino decision confidence surged through the Townsville community hard hit by the recession. Significant investment followed in residential and commercial property. Investment plans were made for ancillary services such as hotels, motels, apartment blocks, marinas, restaurants and vessels. Some were purely speculative, but the majority were genuine and often imaginative proposals to provide the infrastructure for a major tourist industry. Almost three years have passed since the casino project was first promised. In that time more than $100m in value of completed tourist infrastructure and building has occurred in the Townsville region. These Australian investors took Qantas at its word that Townsville would be the entry and departure point for its international services to northern Australia. They accepted without question the firm assurances of the State Government that the casino project would be located at Townsville.

Many honourable members will be aware of what followed the Queensland Government decision. Month after month a start to the casino was promised. Deadline succeeded deadline. Nothing happened. It has been a saga of dithering and deceit-dithering to a degree unusal even for that monumentally incompetent government in Brisbane; deceit because at no point has the Townsville community or the City Council been fully apprised of the situation. Numerous ancillary projects are also stalled. With much fanfare the Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation announced a $300m resort development at Florence Bay on Magnetic Island. Nothing of substance has been heard now for many months. Meanwhile business confidence has seeped away. Investment made on the promise of early development has withered.

Since the announcement by Qantas that Townsville will no longer be, as and from March next year, the entry and departure point of its service to northern Australia, these Australian citizens feel betrayed by Qantas and conned by the Bjelke-Petersen regime. They will certainly view their future role in north Queensland tourism as coming to an end. For, given their experiences at the hands of Qantas and the Bjelke-Petersen Government, how much further trust can they place on the decision by Qantas-encouraged by the State Government-that Cairns will be the major entry and departure point of its services to northern Australia. Should this decision by Qantas not be rescinded, more than 250,000 people in the Townsville-Mackay-Mount Isa region will never forget their experiences at the hands of Qantas and the Bjelke-Petersen Government. North Queensland gave birth to Qantas; the people have always given their loyalty to Qantas. They have, since 1957, given the majority of the State seats in north Queensland to the present State Government. All their faith, sacrifice, trust and investments have been dealt a savage and callous blow by the National Party Government. What a striking contrast to the leadership of the Hawke Federal Government, an authentic Australian Government. I call upon the State Government to meet its promises to the people of north Queensland to expedite these three crucial projects-the casino, Reef World and Florence Bay. I call upon Qantas to continue to treat Townsville as its entry and departure point for its international services to northern Australia.