Leaders hit out as Premier avoids NQ bubble debate
NORTH Queensland tourism and hospitality operators have been fobbed off.
Calls from the region's business and tourism leaders to reopen the North have fallen on deaf ears as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continues to push the whole state to follow the Road Map to Recovery.
On Saturday, while announcing a $10 million assistance package to help international students alongside movie director Baz Luhrmann, Ms Palaszczuk said North Queensland tourism officials would need to submit a plan. "It is something the Chief Health Officer (Dr Jeanette Young) could look at," Ms Palaszczuk said. "It depends on how our number of cases go when we look at the stage two. All of that gets reviewed at the end of each month."
After being a main voice behind the push to reopen the region on Saturday, Townsville Enterprise Limited chief executive officer Patricia O'Callaghan said the industry body along with the four Regional Tourism Organisations partners representing the Cairns, Whitsundays, Mackay and Outback regions, would submit a proposal early this week.
But opposition leader Deb Frecklington says that is not good enough.
With stage two restrictions still weeks away, Ms Frecklington said the North needed to be reopened sooner.
"North Queensland is being fobbed off by the premier and it's not good enough," Ms Frecklington said.
"The premier knows exactly what the plan to free up north and far north Queensland looks like already.
"Asking tourism leaders to make another submission is just putting another roadblock on the path to recovery.
"It is telling that the premier found time to meet a Hollywood director at the weekend but chose not to meet tourism operators.
"An economic crisis in unfolding right now in North Queensland and the Palaszczuk labor government urgently needs to be step up and start listening."
Townsville tourism operators believe the time is right to begin easing restrictions in the region to help stave off a "tsunami of job losses".
With the region lacking the similar population density levels of the state's southeast it is also believed a one-size-fits-all road map out of COVID-19 is not supporting businesses in the state's north.
Thuringowa MP Aaron Harper admitted he would love to see businesses back open tomorrow, but the government had to remain cautious in its approach to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Harper has had his own personal connection to the business restrictions with his son losing his job in the hospitality industry due to the impacts of the virus.
But he remained steadfast in backing the state government's slow-but-steady road map out of the restrictions.
"We would like to go back to some normalcy right across Queensland, but we need to do it in a careful and cautious approach," he said.
"We are weeks away from stage two (of the road map) and I urge caution.
"I believe it is shortsighted and dangerous commentary to be asking for the region to be opened up. This commentary increases complacency."
Questioned whether the state government's road map truly reflected the needs of the Townsville economy, Mr Harper said it was up to all of Queensland to "work together" in response to the virus.
"No one is wanting restrictions to open up recklessly and the health and safety of everyone must always be a priority," she said.
"But if our regions have met the benchmark set by the CHO then we now need a pathway to save the thousands of jobs and small businesses that are currently at risk. This is not unreasonable.
"(We) will submit a proposal early this week but if this becomes a bureaucratic roundabout, then this will be unacceptable because having done everything asked of us, local jobs and the local economy are too important to be held back any longer."
Originally published as Leaders hit out as Premier avoids NQ bubble debate