Tensions Between NSW, Queensland and the Federal Government Flare Over New Tourism Package

Tensions Between NSW, Queensland and the Federal Government Flare Over New Tourism Package
Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks with the media on February 22, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Rebecca Zhu
New South Wales (NSW) state ministers say they are being left behind in the newly announced federal tourism support package. The package, announced on March 10, is part of a $1.2 billion support package for the struggling Australian tourism industry and will subsidise half the cost of 800,000 airfare tickets for domestic travellers to 13 regions.

Of the 13 announced destinations, only one location in NSW was listed. Meanwhile, Queensland had five locations that occupied the list of eligible destinations.

NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres says it appeared the federal government was rewarding “bad behaviour,” referring to Queensland’s tendency to do snap border closures which destroyed their own tourism sector.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian also expressed her disappointment at the announcement. She was frustrated at the contrast in the level of support given to Sydney, which had been “smashed by COVID,” compared to Queensland.

“It is frustrating. I think that the tourism problem in Queensland is completely self-inflicted,” Berejiklian told 2GB radio. “I would love to see some measures to get people back to the (Sydney) CBD and spend money.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is also unhappy with the package, saying it failed to support Queenslanders who wished to travel within the state.

The program, scheduled to run from April to July, is the next step in economic support for the tourism industry after JobKeeper ends in March. However, airfare subsidies only apply to interstate flights, meaning that state borders must remain open to receive the program’s benefits.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed the listed destinations were based on tourist regions affected by international border closures rather than domestic ones. Depending on the industry response, the list was open for expansion to more destinations in the future.

Morrison noted that tourism within regional NSW saw a strong rebound from people travelling within the state.

“In NSW in particular, in many locations we’ve seen, because of the internal travel, the returning strength of the Australian economy,” he said.

However, Ayres said one fundamental tourist area hardest hit by the lack of international tourists was Sydney, with some hotels sitting below 10 percent capacity.

“There’s an incentive to encourage people from Sydney to travel outside of Sydney and into other states,” Ayres told 2GB radio. “But there’s no incentive for people to travel from around Australia into NSW, and particularly into Sydney.”

However, federal minister Peter Dutton has called out the infighting between the state governments, saying it was “playing politics” with the program.

“There are lots of people that will take any dollar that you give them, and if you give them one dollar, they ask for a second,” Peter Dutton told Nine.

“The fact is mums and dads love this policy because they want a cheap airfare and they want to go for a holiday, they want to be able to spend money in regional areas.”