Adjournment – Regional Tourism Fund

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, and the action I seek is a $200 million regional tourism fund to help rural and regional Victoria recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. As the minister knows, my electorate like many others has taken a huge hit, with tourism non-existent and major events cancelled. This means our hotels and our caravan parks have been empty; our restaurants, pubs, clubs and cafes have been closed; and the people who work in the hospitality and tourism sector, which is huge in my electorate, have found themselves without work.

The time to act is now. As people are allowed to leave home and travel they will be looking for a change of scenery, and with some state borders closed and international travel still off the cards regional Victoria, especially south-west Victoria, is the place to go.

But as we begin to move around more and more it is also important to recognise we must learn to live with this virus for some time, at least until there is a vaccine. The aim has always been to flatten the curve and to stop our health services being overrun with patients; the plan was never to eliminate the virus. We have achieved that goal, and while there will continue to be outbreaks, the curve is now flat. We need to continue to suppress the virus and work to control the inevitable outbreaks. We can do that through continuing social distancing, keeping records, the COVIDSafe app, deep cleaning and regular hand washing while all enjoying everything Victoria has to offer. Supermarkets have been operating right through this crisis with such measures in place and have not seen the virus running rampant. We have proven that the measures can be successful.

The Liberal-Nationals have released our plan to get Victoria back to work and back into business, which includes a way to help regional tourism with a $200 million dedicated regional tourism fund. The Andrews Labor government needs to match that and immediately support our country communities to bring visitors back to regional Victoria. It should be targeted to assist operators to get back on their feet, promote Victorian tourism destinations and upgrade tourism-related infrastructure. We need to be showcasing the wonderful rugged coastline of the south-west, the stunning beauty of our national parks and reserves and the cultural heritage values of our World Heritage-listed Budj Bim and highlighting the exceptional dining experiences available from one end of the electorate to the other. We need promotional campaigns, television commercials, billboards and online marketing to show our fellow Victorians the exceptional offerings in their own backyard.

But that is not possible this year because some state borders are closed—this year holidaying will have to look different, and we need to highlight how they do not have to leave the state to have a great break. The south-west is ready and waiting. We just need some support to be able to get the message out that we are open for business. So I call on the minister to take up the idea and establish a dedicated regional tourism fund to help our regional tourism operators get back on their feet.