Queensland’s finances are in a “shambles” but it is not Spain, according to a tourism industry insider.
Premier Campbell Newman, in Canberra for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, told reporters Queensland was at risk of becoming the “Spain of Australian states”, while his treasurer and tourism minister were courting business overseas.
Among Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey’s delegates for business meetings in China was Resort Brokers Australia managing director Ian Crooks.
Mr Crooks said he was confident Queensland, like Australia, was on the cusp of a Chinese tourist boom that could rival the Japanese tourist surge of the 1980s and 90s.
He said he had not heard the premier’s latest comments on the state’s finances, but believed there was no doubt the books were “in a shambles”.
“There is a lot of debt, but Queensland has mineral wealth, and I don’t believe it would be like Spain,” he told AAP.
Spain, saddled with bad debts, has the highest unemployment rate in the industrialised world.
Mr Crooks said the Chinese were keen to buy hotels and resorts in Queensland.
“Already there is a lot of investment from Chinese companies in Queensland’s resource sector,” Mr Crooks said.
“There is also a real drive by this government to get Queensland back where it was in the 80s with the Japanese tourism market and there is a real appetite from the Chinese to do just that.”
The Queensland government is slashing funds to services and staff numbers as it embarks on a massive cost-cutting effort.
It has not confirmed a Seven News report that Tourism Queensland is in line for a 35 per cent budget cut.
Mr Newman made the Spain comment while explaining why Queensland could not afford to contribute to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
A spokeswoman for Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey told AAP the budget had not been finalised and talks of funding cuts at this stage were premature.
She says Tourism Queensland will be restructured, however no decisions are expected until the organisation’s newly appointed chairman Stephen Gregg takes the reins next month.
The government has set up an $8 million aviation investment fund, which it says has helped attract three direct flights from Shanghai to Cairns weekly. The flights are due to start in late October.