15 March 2021

COVID-19: Tourism
Monday, 15 March 2021

I would like to speak about the Northern Territory. Tourism is the lifeblood of the Northern Territory. In 2018-19 tourism directly employed 8,400 people in the Territory; that's 6.3 per cent of overall Northern Territory employment. It supported 15,600 jobs, or 11.8 per cent of the region's total employment. In the same period, total tourism gross state produce, GSP, was $2.6 billion, or 9.5 per cent of GSP. You can see by these figures that tourism is a critical part of our economy in the north.

While the Territory has done a remarkable job in keeping us safe from COVID, our tourism industry has been hit hard. You only have to see the stories in recent months, in particular around our icons, our jewels, of the Northern Territory in terms of the national parks of Uluru and Kakadu. Let's not forget all the others in the tourism industry of the Northern Territory—hospitality, the hotels, accommodation, the cafes, the stores, the campgrounds, the caravan parks. They are so vital, in particular in the Top End as we prepare for the dry season, which is, in terms of the north, a very critical time for having people come up, spend their money and get away from the cold climates in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.

This government's refusal to listen to the tourism industry ahead of cutting off JobKeeper kicks them when they're down. Added to the list were Alice Springs, Uluru and Darwin at the last minute. Was there a bit of confusion? Was Darwin there initially but taken off and then put back on because of the cries that the Northern Territory was missing out? It's great that Darwin is back on, don't get me wrong, but the confusion around that upset people even more. People thought, 'We obviously don't matter.' These places were added at the last minute and included in the half-price airfare scheme. How is it going to impact tour operators, cafes, restaurants, accommodation providers, retailers, taxi drivers and hire car companies? All of this is still unknown.

It is astounding that the government is expecting cash-strapped Australians to spend their own money trying to save our tourism industry when it won't do the same. It might shock members of the government to learn that many Australian families cannot afford the airfares to Darwin or Alice Springs, even at half price. It would cost a family of four over $2,000 to fly from Sydney or Melbourne to Alice Springs at current prices. That doesn't include the cost of accommodation, tours and the rest. Whilst I highly recommend people visit us in the Northern Territory, the fact is that many Australian families just can't afford this at the moment.

Territory businesses are worried. They're staring at an uncertain future, especially in the regional centres of the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory government's tourism voucher scheme has assisted many to stay afloat. I certainly commend the Territory government for that. Companies that rely heavily on international visitation, like bus and tour operators, are looking at grim times. The owners of businesses like Emu Run, Uluru Camel Tours and Wayoutback Australian Safaris are going to be forced to make some very tough decisions with JobKeeper ending on 28 March. (Time expired)