Aqua Fun Park Mackay at Andergrove is a enterprising venture which not only boosts Mackay’s tourism offering but provides much-needed jobs for youth. It is in danger of being lost to the region and I'm keen to see what I can do to help. A government handout is not appropriate for a private business but if a not-for-profit organisation acquired equipment as a community asset and leased it out to a business to manage, that may be a viable solution. Operators Amanda Pelagalli and Kirk Langford have told me they lease their inflatable water park equipment and it will not be available to them next summer. So they need to buy their own equipment. This is a community-based tourism facility which helps Mackay to diversify and provide more reasons for visitation. Importantly it also provides casual employment for as many as 50 young people in our city, at a time when jobs for our kids are hard to find.
The concerns of those in the horticultural industry have been heard, and the plan to introduce a 15% flat rate of tax for backpackers will now face a full review. Tourism Minister Richard Colbeck has announced a cross-department review so that we can take a long hard look at the issues surrounding the so-called ‘backpacker tax’ to make sure that we do not disadvantage growers who have been relying on backpackers to harvest their crops. I have had numerous phone calls and meetings with those in the horticultural industry, and I agreed to support the Bowen Gumlu growers in their push for a 15% flat rate of tax, rather than the proposed 32.5c tax for every dollar earned for those on working holiday visas.
MACKAY’S weather service will be in the lap of the robots after August, following the Bureau of Meteorology’s decision to automate the local office and cut all staff. Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, this week confirmed Mackay’s Bureau of Meteorology office would move to full automation after August and that the equipment would be monitored and serviced by staff based in the Bureau’s Cairns Activity Hub. Staff members at Mackay’s office will be given the opportunity to be sent to another office. I will continue negotiations with the minister to overturn or delay the decision to axe staff from the Mackay office and I'm asking you to lend your support by signing my online petition. Removing staff from Mackay after August (and then from Townsville as well) will leave no technicians near any BOM facility along a 1700km stretch of the Queensland coastline.
DREAMS of flying high on direct international flights out of Mackay and Whitsunday Coast and providing a vital tourism boost to both centres have moved a step closer, with work underway on identifying the airport infrastructure and resourcing requirements needed to support international flights. Following my approaches to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, I have been informed that his department representatives are working with management at both Mackay and Whitsunday Coast airports to look at airport infrastructure and identify border agency resourcing requirements so we can make these plans a reality.
FOLLOWING a mammoth meeting of the Liberal National Coalition Government last night, it is highly likely that the issue of gay marriage will be put to the people to vote on. I have been calling for this option since before the last election and have had several discussions with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his advisers on the idea. I am hopeful we can resolve the issue of same sex marriage by committing to putting it to the people to vote on and then it can be resolved once and for all.