Doorstop – Cairns – Monday, 31 July 2017

MONDAY, 31 JULY 2017

SUBJECT: Labor’s Planned $1 Billion Tourism Infrastructure Fund

CLARE: It’s good to be back in Cairns, and it’s great to be here at Zoom with Michael. The Federal Government provided over $100,000 in assistance to help to establish this facility in 2012. That money has helped to increase the number of tourists who visit here every week by over 80 per cent over the last 5 years. With the success of Australian Ninja Warrior, well you never know you might find that even more people come along in the future.

On the weekend Bill Shorten announced that a future Labor Government will provide $1 billion to create a Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund. We want to make sure that a lot of that money is invested right here in Cairns, and right across Northern Queensland.

Cairns is the gateway to the Barrier Reef. One in five people in Cairns work in the tourism industry, and a lot more will work in the tourism industry in the years ahead as more tourists from overseas – particularly China – come and spend time here in Cairns checking out the incredible beauty that we have to offer. So we need the right infrastructure to make sure that we attract more tourists and that people have a great time when they’re here. That’s what this billion dollar fund is all about. I’m here in Cairns today talking to Advance Cairns, as well as talking to tourism operators to find out from them what they think we should spend this money on.

The Government has set up a Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, which we support. The problem with the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund is that it’s been operating now for two years and it hasn’t spent a cent. Not only that, they don’t have one tourism project on their books currently under investigation. Tourism is the heart and soul of Cairns. We want to make sure that that fund helps to build a bigger, better, stronger Cairns in the future. That’s why we’re creating this standalone $1 billion fund.

The next Federal election could only be just over a year away, so we’re working now with local industry so we can hit the ground running if we win the next election and invest in projects that are going to create more jobs here in Cairns.

Happy to take questions and I know that Michael would be able to talk about this project [Cairns Zoom] as well.

JOURNALIST: So what would be different with your fund, as opposed to the current NAIF fund?

CLARE: Firstly it would be specifically for tourism. At the moment NAIF is currently not looking at funding any tourism projects out of its bucket of $5 billion at all. We want to quarantine $1 billion for tourism projects. We’re also asking industry ‘why haven’t there been any tourism projects funded by NAIF at the moment, and what are the criteria that we should set to make sure this money goes into projects that are going to create jobs here in Cairns, and right across North Australia?’

JOURNALIST: So, under NAIF there’s nothing stopping tourism projects from applying for it, do you know if they’ve actually applied and been knocked back.

CLARE: Some have approached NAIF and have decided not to submit bids. But there’s not one single tourism project currently being considered by NAIF at the moment. So what I want to hear from tourism operators as well as from economic development organisations like Advance Cairns is what rules need to change to make it easier for investment in the sort of infrastructure here in Cairns that’s going to create more jobs and encourage more tourists to come here for a holiday.

JOURNALIST: Have you got any idea about what sort of projects people want yet?

CLARE: There’s obvious ones, the bigger and better the airport is the more tourists we can attract. The work that’s being done by the State Government at the port is going to help to attract more tourists to come here. Last time I was here we talked about getting the super yacht industry here in town. But that’s just the start. There are a lot of great ideas and business usually has the best ideas. We want to hear from them over the next 12 months and make sure that we set up a fund that’s going to deliver the jobs and investment that a place like Cairns needs.

JOURNALIST: The Council’s been talking a bit over the past couple of years about a rectangular stadium. Would that fall under tourism or is that more events, or?

CLARE: It depends. The funds for example for the stadium in Townsville came out of a different set of funding from the Federal Government and the State Government. What we’re looking at here is specifically funds that are going to attract more tourists to come to Cairns. More people to come here and spend more time here. The more nights a tourist spends in Cairns the more money for the local industry, the more jobs it creates.