I love Queensland.
Just about every part of the state is the perfect place for a holiday, all the way from the family-fun of the Gold Coast to the pristine beaches, unmatched rainforests and extraordinary sea life of the far north.
Once this crisis is over, my whole family can’t wait to get back up there.
But the reality is that Australia is a big country, and many of us from the cooler states rely on flights to get us to distant holiday destinations.
And while this crisis has been devastating for the tourism industry in Queensland, it has also been hard on Australia’s airlines.
Not only does our aviation industry employ hundreds of thousands of Australians, many of them in Queensland, but it supports the backbone of tourism.
Prior to this crisis, Virgin Australia flew over 3000 flights a week to more than 30 Australian cities and centres.
Many of these flights delivered visitors to Queensland’s prime tourist destinations, including Cairns, Townsville, Hervey Bay, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Mackay and the Whitsundays.
These destinations are a favourite for all Australians.
They’re favourites because, beyond simply being beautiful places to visit, our competitive airline industry has ensured that getting a flight there is affordable for many Australians.
But by allowing Virgin Australia to fall into administration, and refusing support throughout that process, the Morrison Government is putting those flights and that accessibility at risk.
With fewer seats and higher prices, flights to destinations across Queensland would become less affordable for all Australians.
This would be devastating for regional economies across Queensland which need a competitive aviation industry.
Before the COVID-crisis, tourism contributed $12.8 billion to the Queensland economy and directly or indirectly employed 217,000 Queenslanders, or 9.1 per cent of all workers in the state.
Tourism’s economic contribution is even more significant to regional cities and towns that rely on visitors for their local economies.
For Mackay alone, tourism contributed $531.6 million to the local economy.
Tourism businesses in Mackay and the workers they employ are doing it incredibly tough at the moment.
As we recover and as the borders reopen, they are going to be reliant on Australians from every corner of the country to visit, to spend some money, and to get their regional economies back on track.
Throughout this process, the Prime Minister and members of the government from across Queensland have paid lip service to the fact that two strong, competitive airlines are essential for our economic recovery.
At the same time, they have refused to take any action to ensure that our competitive airline industry remains a reality.
Without action, words mean nothing.
It is now time for the Prime Minister and members of his government to stand up for Queensland, stand up for their communities, and guarantee that regional routes will continue to fly no matter the outcome of Virgin Australia’s administration process.
If Scott Morrison and his Government fail to do so, every flight cut, every business closed and every job lost will be a direct result of their failure to listen and their failure to act.
This Op-Ed was originally published in the Daily Mercury on Friday, 3 July 2020.
HEY SCOTT MORRISON – WITHOUT ACTION WORDS MEAN NOTHING
I love Queensland.