Acting PM to tour QLD
ACTING Prime Minister Michael McCormack says he hopes recent snap lockdowns and border restrictions in some states won't discourage interstate travel and tourism.
Mr McCormack has made a quick dash to north Queensland for a listening tour to discover how the region is handling the pandemic while he stands in for Scott Morrison, who is on leave.
Water infrastructure including the Hells Gate Dam and Big Rocks Weir as well as road improvements are also on his agenda as he tours around Townsville over the next 24 hours.
Speaking to The Courier-Mail, Mr McCormack doubled down on remarks made earlier yesterday that businesses wanted the JobKeeper wage stimulus to end in March.
He had come under attack from Opposition Treasury Spokesman Jim Chalmers who called Mr McCormack "spectacularly out of touch" for pretending businesses relying on JobKeeper in hard-hit areas regions such as Cairns "somehow want that support to be cut".
But Mr McCormack hit back, questioning when Mr Chalmers had last set foot in regional Australia
He wouldn't even probably own a pair of RM Williams and, if he did, they certainly wouldn't be scuffed," he said.
"Jim Chalmers exists in his little high tower in Brisbane. He's probably very rarely got out of the lift let alone pushed the buttons to go up or down in the lift."
He said the government was trying to return the economy to "some normality" but support measures such as JobKeeper were not sustainable for the economy, employment and Commonwealth debt.
Mr McCormack also backed in state premiers such as Queensland's Annastacia Palaszczuk who have recently made snap decisions to lock down areas and enact border controls in response to COVID outbreaks.
But he said the decisions created situations where many people could get "stuck on the wrong side" of borders.
He hoped the threat of getting caught out would not dampen demand for interstate travel.
"I would like to think not and I would like to hope not," he said.
"I appreciate that people are worried about ending up in another state and not being able to get home but let's see how the situation unfolds," he said.
He also said the government would work to ensure regional communities were not left "high and dry" without aviation services once airlines returned to flying full schedules.
He said he had spoken with new Virgin Australia boss Jayne Hrdlicka about the importance of regional air routes and she "understands how important it will be to service those communities".
"Of course we will look at the situation as it presents but we don't want to leave any country community high and dry without aviation services," he said.
Resources and Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt will also tour the region with Mr McCormack.
Originally published as Acting PM to tour QLD