What’s the problem?
Tourism is one of the major industries in Australia, it is a major employer and supports hundreds of communities.
Boosting the tourism sector over the coming years will be a key driver of economic growth and well-paid jobs over the coming decades.
Tourism ranks as our third greatest export in value terms behind iron ore and coal, accounting for 1 in every twenty export dollars.
But the World Economic Forum’s latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index ranked Australia 7th for overall competitiveness but 20th for tourism infrastructure.
Tourism dollars, both international and domestic, are highly discretionary, very discerning, and will be attracted by new facilities, new experiences and high quality services.
Australia has some of the world’s most amazing natural environment and experiences, but we cannot afford to be dragged down by sub-substandard tourism infrastructure.
This is particularly true in Northern Australia, where a deficit in high quality tourism infrastructure will limit the region’s ability to capture and grow our share of the booming Asian travel market without additional investment.
Labor believes the government has a key role supporting investment in world-class infrastructure which underpins a world-class tourism experience, encouraging the growth of high-yield markets in our region.
By 2030 there will be over three billion people in the Asian middle classes seeking international tourism opportunities in our region and beyond. We want them to choose Australia.
Cruise tourism is growing 20 per cent a year, creating demand for port access. Airports in the north are seeking to expand to meet expected demand. Without world class facilities, we aren’t going to be able to compete, sending jobs overseas.
We must also act to ensure that all Australians can enjoy holidays in Australia’s north, visiting the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, the Daintree Rainforest and the Kimberley. These are uniquely Australian experiences, that all Australians should have access to visiting.
That is why Labor will act to back our tourism sector and support investment in the infrastructure that Northern Australia needs.
Labor will establish the Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund, to boost partnerships with the tourism sector and to provide incentives to business for investment in new and upgraded tourism infrastructure across Northern Australia.
Categories of tourism eligible for the funding will include (but not be limited to):
- Projects targeting the expanding Asian tourism market.
- Projects promoting Australia’s natural environment such as the Great Barrier Reef.
- Indigenous tourism ventures.
- Event-based facilities including stadia and convention centres.
- Transport and access upgrades, including for ports and airports that support tourism.
Funding would be available through concessional loans and other forms of project finance, ensuring that projects will need to stack up and also potentially attract private financing.
The Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund would make available $1 billion in concessional loans to boost investment.
Northern Australia will have the same definition as under the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund – all NT and parts of WA and Queensland north of the Tropic of Capricorn, and including Gladstone, Carnarvon and Exmouth.
Funding will be allocated through a competitive process, with clear criteria that will be the subject of prior consultation with the sector.
Funding for this announcement would be offset from the $5.0 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility that is already included in the Budget, and therefore have a nil budget impact. All funding will remain dedicated to Northern Australia.
Labor has a strong record in investing in tourism, investing in our people and infrastructure to boost this vital sector, including:
- The former Labor Government provided matched capital investment in tourism through the T-QUAL program and the Tourism Industry Regional Fund (TIRF).
- T-QUAL provided 283 grants to projects between 2011 to 2013, grants worth $15,000 to $100,000 for smaller-scale projects to support tourism development.
- Strategic Tourism Investment Grants provided funding for eight projects supporting Indigenous tourism development as well as China market readiness projects.
- Round 1 of the TIRF provided grants of between $50,000 and $250,000 for 84 projects in March 2013. The Coalition cancelled Round 2.
- Previous Labor Governments have had a strong record of investment in tourism projects in the north, including Karratha Leisure Centre, Townsville V8 Supercar Event Precinct, Mackay Stadium and City Centre, Magnetic Island Walkway in Townsville and several tourist centre, village and waterfront revitalisations in northern Australia.
The Liberal alternative
The Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund was announced over a year ago and nothing has happened. In the last week of Parliament in early May, the legislation was rushed through the Parliament, but no projects have been announced – in tourism or any other infrastructure.
There has been a lot of talk about infrastructure and development in Northern Australia under the Liberals, but after three years, nothing to show for it.
Government has also cut Tourism Australia funding in real terms, abolished the ABS Survey of Tourist Accommodation and cancelled Australia from the UN World Tourism Organisation and presence at trade shows.
This policy has no budget impact, with the costs fully offset from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund.