An overseas trip during a bushfire crisis has created a headache for another Australian political leader, with SA Premier Steven Marshall apologising for “any confusion” created by his unannounced week-long trade mission to Singapore and Japan.
- Mr Marshall said it was important to promote South Australia to overseas tourists
- He conceded the announcement of his upcoming trip could have been handled better
- The Premier left for a week-long trade mission days after replacing David Ridgway as Tourism Minister
Mr Marshall left the state on Monday — two days after he announced he would take over as Tourism Minister from David Ridgway.
The Premier defended that decision on the grounds the portfolio would keep Mr Ridgway overseas too often to help Kangaroo Island’s bushfire-ravaged tourism industry, but Labor has accused the Government of hypocrisy.
“It perhaps wasn’t a good look for him to be leaving only hours after he told South Australians that he should be Tourism Minister, and that he needed to be here on the ground,” Shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said.
Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman said it was important that Mr Marshall took “every opportunity” to ensure that “we sell to the world that we are open for business”.
But Mr Marshall, who is currently in Singapore, today conceded the announcement of the trip could have been handled better.
“I think we should have made it definitely a lot clearer to the people of South Australia exactly what the trip was about, what it was intending to achieve,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“I think we probably should have called a press conference, but it was a busy morning that morning with one of three extraordinary Cabinet meetings … and if I’ve got it wrong, I apologise.
“I apologise if people have had any confusion, but this is a really important trip for South Australia.”
Correcting ‘misconceptions’ key for tourism, Premier says
Mr Marshall said the trip focussed on critical areas like tourism, attracting international students and investment, as well as correcting “some of the misconceptions” about Australia’s bushfires.
“While I’ve even been here in Singapore, people were saying to me ‘I hear the whole of Australia is burning down at the moment’,” he said.
“We’ve got to be on the front foot in terms of tourism and making sure that we can keep our tourism numbers up and our travellers up and continue to promote Kangaroo Island, the Adelaide Hills and of course, the whole of South Australia.
“It’s been planned for a long period of time … and while I’m here, it’s already proven to be extraordinarily beneficial.”
The Government previously said Mr Marshall made four trips to Kangaroo Island in two weeks, and would be heading there again upon his return.
It said the overseas trip had been announced before the fire crisis, in the Government Gazette in December — a claim rejected by Labor.
“What was published in the Gazette was that Vickie Chapman would be acting premier during the Premier’s absence — it didn’t say where he would be absent to,” Mr Mullighan said.
The Opposition also said Mr Marshall had not learnt anything from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was widely condemned for holidaying while Australia’s bushfires intensified before Christmas.
The Kangaroo Island fires have now burned through more than 200,000 hectares of land, killed 43,000 livestock animals, an estimated 30,000 koalas and affected over 200 producers, according to Livestock SA.
This week authorities said 65 homes were destroyed by the island’s fires which also claimed the lives of respected pilot Dick Lang and his son Clayton, an experienced surgeon.
Animal welfare agencies now hold grave concerns for the ongoing survival of koalas, kangaroos and pademelons still being found alive as starvation becomes a threat.
Stay across our bushfire coverage:
- Bushfire smoke plume expected to lap the globe, NASA predicts
- Government pledges $50m for fire-affected wildlife as koalas may become endangered
- First all-Indigenous NSW firefighting crews protecting sacred sites, remote communities
- Australia fires photos show startling transformation before and after destruction
- We crunched the numbers on bushfires and arson — the results might surprise you
- Analysis: As Australia burns, Scott Morrison is rattling off an alibi
- Wildlife experts say over a billion animals now dead in NSW bushfires