It was an announcement that was always going to grab attention — would you like to be paid $1,500 to move to Queensland’s beautiful tropics?
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk must have known she was on a winner as soon as it went up on the whiteboard at 1 William Street because her staff booked her on all the breakfast TV shows.
This is her destination of choice when she wants to talk to Australia, albeit briefly.
An idea like that sounds good over a bowl of cereal, but for some in the tourism industry it still lacks the meat and potatoes that would assure them of nourishment through these lean years of knobbled international travel.
Birdsville pub manager Ben Fullagar told the ABC the Work in Paradise program needed to ensure people who receive the $1,500 actually stayed in the job and don’t just pocket the cash and run.
Upon registering for the program, you receive an email back saying “Thank You” and “We’ll be in contact when the program goes live”.
There is very little detail on how exactly the program will be managed, how candidates will be chosen, or timeframes around when it will be finalised.
The Premier announced that in the first 24 hours, 5,624 people had registered for the $7.5 million program. Already that’s 624 people too many.
What happens if each one claims the payment? Five thousand payments of $1,500 is the scheme’s money fully spent.
To put that into context, Queensland lost 7,400 jobs in the month of April alone.
A $7.5 million program is small biscuits next to the problem of Queensland’s unemployment rate, which has long been above the national average.
Previous attempts by the state to act as job matchmaker have been underwhelming.
When treasurer in April last year, Jackie Trad launched an online portal called Job Finder as part of a $4 billion package to support jobs through the pandemic.
It placed 500 people in jobs and the portal is now dead, directing you to another government page which just has links to external employment sites such as Seek.
Another program that could be falling short of expectations is the Holiday Dollars voucher scheme, designed to tempt tourists to Brisbane, Cairns and the Whitsundays.
The 56,000 vouchers offer 50 per cent off tourism experiences in those regions up to the value of $200 in Cairns and the Whitsundays and up to $100 in Brisbane, with the vouchers expiring on June 25 for Cairns and the Whitsundays, and July 13 for Brisbane.
So far 6,800 have been redeemed, meaning about $2.4 million has been spent with tourism operators.
Aside from the unemployment rate, Queensland is facing a series of major hurdles — by all accounts, housing the regions is dire.
Those same regional centres can’t find workers, and this is all in the midst of a pandemic with a slowing vaccine take-up.
Scomo not a happy Wellcamper
Then there is the problem of quarantine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suggested a lack of detail is at the heart of the dispute between the federal and state governments over building a quarantine facility for returned travellers at the privately owned Wellcamp Airport in Toowoomba.
When asked at a media conference if it was correct that Queensland’s proposal ran to just 15 pages, of which most were pictures, and that it did not include details about cost or operational information, Mr Morrison replied: “That is true.”
By comparison, he said, Victoria’s proposal was “very comprehensive … and something we can work with”.
Ms Palaszczuk, unable to accuse the PM of a partisan attack given Victoria is also a Labor state, instead appealed for them to work together.
“I’m not going to get into this slanging war,” she said.
The economic recovery depends on all levels of government working together and it’s unlikely any of Queensland’s voucher schemes are going to be more than a token effort in a multi-billion-dollar downturn.
An overarching plan is needed now more than ever.
Peter Beattie gave Queensland the Smart State campaign and a focus on biotechnology.
Former Brisbane lord mayor Campbell Newman established his credentials at City Hall with infrastructure.
But this is a crisis more intricate and multi-faceted than any leader has faced in recent memory — details matter.