The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

23 April 2011

Doorstop Interview

Cairns

23 April 2011

SUBJECTS: Wage assistance extended for communities hit by Cyclone Yasi; Cairns tourism; Villawood Detention Centre

TREASURER:

This morning I'm announcing a doubling of the wage subsidy for those businesses directly hit by Cyclone Yasi. This is quite important, many businesses suffered substantial damage – cane farmers, banana farmers, small businesses in Tully, small businesses in Cardwell. A doubling of that wage subsidy from 13 weeks to 26 weeks to make sure that they can keep their workers in place until they get back on their feet is very important. This applies in the declared areas, it is an important measure to make sure the labour force stays in place and these businesses are viable.

JOURNALIST:

Is that it or are will you look at extending it if needs be?

TREASURER:

Well, we are just extending it now, that's exactly what I'm announcing, from 13 weeks to 26 weeks. There are many, many businesses that are already receiving this assistance and now I'm announcing it will go from 13 weeks to 26 weeks.

JOURNALIST:

Is that as a result of what you're hearing on the ground here or is that something you decided before coming in?

TREASURER:

We always said we had the option of extending it, but I've been listening to what the local community has been saying and I spoke to [Superintendant] Keating who is the head of the authority in Far North Queensland, and taking into account all of the circumstances in those industries we thought it was the appropriate thing to do. I said yesterday that we've made progress, but we've got a long way to go.

JOURNALIST:

It's the Easter weekend here, tourism is actually quite strong surprisingly, compared to what we've seen. Will you be making your judgement on tourism on what you're seeing or what you're hearing?

TREASURER:

I've been talking to the business community about the tourist industry here, what needs to be done in the long term to strengthen the base of the economy, what more can be done to assist the tourist industry. It is a great thing that's there's lots of people around this weekend. I mean, I couldn't believe it last night, there were people everywhere, but I know that there are more fundamental challenges that do need to be dealt with, so I'm not making my judgement on the fact that there's people everywhere this weekend. I understand there is a real challenge here in the tourism industry and I've been talking to industry leaders about this while I've been here.

JOURNALIST:

Have you been surprised by what you are hearing?

TREASURER:

There's been some long-term challenges in the Far North Queensland tourist industry for some time, and those challenges are ones that are being dealt with by working with the local business community but there's a lot more that needs to be done. As we know, the higher level of the Australian dollar is now a handbrake, if you like, on tourism not just here but around the country - that's a challenge. Industry leaders have raised with me a series of issues to do with aviation and so on. All of these things have to be dealt with in the long term for the good of the area, but there is no silver bullet or no instantaneous solution to some of the challenges, but it's great to see people are back - that's good to see.

JOURNALIST:

The Australian reported this morning that the three people convicted over the 2009 Christmas Island riots were eventually granted visas. How can the Australian people have confidence that anything different will happen with the latest round of riots at Villawood?

TREASURER:

I'm sorry but what The Australian is particularly reporting this morning is that two of those that are currently being questioned for unacceptable behaviour at Silverwater prison have been rejected twice for their visas. They are now going through a further judicial review process and that is under legislation which was passed by the previous government.

JOURNALIST:

Do you support the starving of the people off the roof of the facility?

TREASURER:

I think the authorities should take every responsible course of action to remove people from those positions, but that is entirely a matter for the law enforcement officials.

JOURNALIST:

Just one last one. On Monday they're talking about having, the supporters having a protest on ANZAC Day out the front of the facility. Do you support that? What do you think about that?

TREASURER:

I don't think that's necessarily appropriate at all. There has been unacceptable behaviour by people inside the facility, 22 of them have been removed, they are being questioned at Silverwater Jail - that's how it should be. The fact is we cannot in any way condone the sorts of acts and behaviour that was seen at that facility in recent days.