ALP tourism policy reaches for the sky
LABOR has leapt ahead of the Coalition in the tourism funding stakes with a $250 million election announcement to reel in visitors from Australia and abroad.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten arrived in Cairns yesterday alongside a cavalcade of media, his wife Chloe, and Labor ministers-in-waiting Tony Burke and Brendan O'Connor.
The entourage rode the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway before Mr Shorten detailed a plan already winning favour with tourism identities.
He committed $100 million towards helping local councils maintain and grow regional airports, with $95 million committed to upgrading existing tourism attractions.
Another $30 million would go towards creating new regional tourism experiences, while $25 million would be invested in Tourism Australia.
In a statement, Mr Shorten said the funding would also specifically go towards strategies to attract new international flights to Cairns.
"Tourism Australia will roll out joint marketing activities between airports, airlines and government to make destinations such as Cairns more attractive for international visitors," he said. "This would encourage airlines to put on additional flights and develop new routes, expanding Cairns' overseas links."
The statement said a Shorten government would incentivise the development of new routes to destinations like Cairns by allowing foreign airlines more capacity to major gateways where services are linked to regional airports.
"This will involve services to major gateways not being counted against available capacity (up to a limit), provided the airline operates via or beyond to a regional airport," it said.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chairwoman Wendy Morris said the challenge was now to get bipartisan support for the package
"The biggest one is Tourism Australia," she said.
"They are the ones that can leverage the story of our region internationally, but also domestically.
"Aviation attraction is key and that's certainly been alluded to by both sides."
The commitments went down well with the Tourism and Transport Forum, which previously said the Coalition's Federal Budget had "short-changed" the industry.
TTF chief executive officer Margy Osmond said Labor had "clearly been listening to the needs of Australia's tourism industry".
Mr Shorten also committed to "rescuing the Reef" by redistributing the remnants of $444 million in funding to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. He said the Coalition's agreement with the organisation would be terminated with every dollar recovered being spent on public agencies to conserve the Reef.
"We are going to engage in reef rescue and that starts by taking back most of the money which was given in half an hour to a private trust," he said.
"We will take that $440 million back and we're going to spend it on government experts, CSIRO, working with local communities."
He made a pitch to the country's lowest-paid workers saying his government would make a "strong case" to the independent umpire to increase the minimum wage.
"We're going to use the full force of Commonwealth advocacy to support a wage increase for 2.2 million Australians," he said.
$95m to upgrade existing regional tourism attractions
■ $40 million already earmarked for projects in Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria
■ $55 million leftover
$30m for new ventures
■ Eligible projects could include feasibility or concept studies such as indigenous cultural experiences, agritourism, eco-tourism, new infrastructure or upgrades
$25m boost to Tourism Australia
■ Marketing to both domestic and international visitors
■ Encouraging airlines to develop new routes
$100m for regional airports
■ Grow and improve existing airports to deal with a "significant backlog in aviation in airport maintenance"
■ Funded with councils on a dollar-for-dollar basis