Doorstop interview, Townsville

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Tourism in Townsville.
20 December 2018

PhillipThompson: I'd like to welcome back to Townsville MinisterBirmingham and also welcome Senator Ian Macdonald, the senator in the north. Weare here today at Adrenaline Dive and Snorkel and it was pleasing for me tolearn that the reef is thriving here in Townsville and we have supplied thefunding for the boat, and we all know that in Townsville if the tourism's goingwell the economy's going well. So I'd like to offer the minister and then theSenate for a couple of words.

SimonBirmingham: Thanks Phil and it's great to bewith you our LNP candidate in Herbert and with my good friend and colleague,Ian Macdonald, a passionate Queensland senator who is who has given suchservice in terms of his work championing Townsville region, and of course northQueensland more generally.

I'mreally pleased to be here on my first visit as Tourism Minister to Townsville,a place that I've been thrilled to visit in numerous capacities over the years.But it's really important to be here as Tourism Minister because of the hugeimportance tourism makes to the Townsville region and the local economy. We'veseen under our government some strong growth, most recently around 10 percentgrowth in international visitation which means that together international anddomestic tourism contributes around $1 billion dollars' worth of economicactivity to the Townsville region. That's a huge employer, a huge driver ofjobs as well as support for local families, local businesses and of courseunderpinning the type of services that you want to see in a region likeTownsville.

Andit's really great to be here at Adrenalin Dive and Snorkel, a local businesswho are doing great things and are backing the future of tourism in Townsville.I'm pleased that our government through the Export Finance InsuranceCorporation has been able to provide loan funding to support this business'expansion and purchase of a third vessel in terms of their dive and snorkelbusiness.

That'sof course then punting on the future and believing that they can keep growing atourism business here out of Townsville, trips out to the Great Barrier Reefand to give thousands of tourists from overseas and around Australia aworld-class experience snorkeling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef, on abrand new ship that's going to be commissioned and in service in just a coupleof months' time. This is a really exciting venture, its a demonstration that ontop of trade growth, we've got tourism growth all of it underpinning growth injobs, economic activity which is one of the reasons why we've seen across thecountry record jobs growth, record youth jobs growth, we've been able to drivedown unemployment that sustains the type of economic activity that's allowingus to balance the budget, deliver tax cuts for small businesses like this forhardworking Australian income earners, and all of it because we have a strongeconomy.

That'swhat's at risk at the next election. The strong economy we're delivering thanksto our investment in balancing the budget, thanks to the lower taxes we'vecreated and the environment that's allowing people to invest in the futurethreatened by $200 billion dollars plus of new taxes that Bill Shorten willleverage on businesses, on employees, on retirees, on investments, on people's savings,on electricity bills. All that of course will make it so much harder to dobusiness compared with the positive environment we've created.

Ian Macdonald: It'salso great to see my old mate Simon Birmingham here, Simon is the TradeMinister as well as the Tourism Minister and they are both intertwined. InTownsville we have such a lot of export businesses, many of which aren't evenknown about. But we also have some fantastic tourist destinations MagneticIsland that hidden gem, we've got Mount Speck, we've got the Burdekin, we'vegot the reef not far away, we've got the Yongala Dive, we've got the Strand andRiver Way. There Is just so much in the Townsville region for tourism and it'sgreat that the Tourism Minister is here early in his career as Tourism Ministerjust to see what this part of the world has to offer.

Journalist: With the new boat and that loan scheme can you talk usthrough the scheme and how other businesses might be able to tap into it?

SimonBirmingham: So EFIC is a government agency thatruns essentially commercial-based loans but really backing and supportingexport-oriented businesses - businesses who are either growing our trade ormaking sure that the trade surpluses we now reap, routinely deliver month aftermonth continue. But also backing tourism businesses that of course play such abig role in bringing extra dollars into Australia from overseas businesses .Andnow businesses need to make a commercial case to EFIC, this is not free money,it's about prudent financial management that encourages and helps businesseswho might be struggling to get banks to loan them the money, can instead getthe support through an agency like EFIC that allows them to be able to investhere in a new boat, a new boat that is going to dramatically increase capacity,it will be the biggest of the three boats that Adrenaline Dive and Snorkel has.It will allow them to have more punters going out to the reef, getting aworld-class experience and of course it will only help to build the reputationof Townsville as a tourism centre in northern Queensland.

Journalist: The stats that show international visitors are up 10percent, do you think we could do more maybe advertising campaigns that sort ofthing for the Townsville, north Queensland area, overseas?

SimonBirmingham: Well we really look to work from aTourism Australia perspective to promote the best of Australia and then topartner closely with state and local tourism agencies. And we know we've gotsome strong partners locally, but we do want to make sure that we see the typeof continued partnership and investment out of tourism bodies in tropical NorthQueensland willing to back and invest the promotion in international markets.Our government is invested in the Dundee campaign in North America in theUndiscovered campaign across parts of South East Asia, we're seeing stronggrowth in international tourists out of these markets and we believe theinvestments we're making record marketing spend in tourism at a national levelcan only be good news in terms of getting more people distributed acrossregional Australia, that's where we really want to encourage our internationalvisitors to get in.

Journalist: With the reef and having parts of it bleached, isthere a need to let people know it is open for business and also the efforts torestore the reef?

SimonBirmingham: It's fantastic to see the extent ofinvestment and community support for a healthy reef and also I think now an increasingunderstanding that the reef is healthy, it recovers from natural events likecyclones that have occurred throughout history, and will continue to occur andit recovers well because of course we work hard as a government to invest inits management. We have world class management through the Great Barrier ReefMarine Park Authority. We've reformed (indistinct) as well to make sure that itis fit for purpose for the future and work alongside tourism industries.

We'vemade record investments in the future of the reef and including especiallyaround the crown of thorns starfish, and just inside we were getting a briefingbefore about how successful and important our government's ongoing crown ofthorns starfish management campaign has been to support divers out there on thereef to collect, to kill crown of thorns starfish, to make sure we keep thosepopulation numbers down so that the native coral and species can continue toflourish. Now, the reef is an awesome place to visit. Right now, today, we wantto make sure that it continues to be in the future, which is why we've gotrecord investment in the reef and we're going to continue to get that messageout there to international visitors that there is no other experience in theworld as high quality as visiting Australia's Great Barrier Reef and you can doit right here in Townsville.

Journalist: Labor's said it's goingto try to claw back some of that investment to the Great Barrier Reef, for thehalf a billion dollars, do you think that's concerning if they try and clawthat back?

SimonBirmingham: So we have committed record fundingto support the management of the Great Barrier Reef into the future. And you'vegot to shake your head and wonder about the Labor Party who cry crocodile tearsover the reef, who denigrate the reef, but then say they're going to rip awayfunding from the reef. I mean frankly, what is the Labor Party thinking whenthey say they're not going to proceed with our hundreds of millions of dollarsof investment in supporting the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef. Asa Government we've put that money on the table to give long term certainty andsurety that the investment that is required, whether it's in managing crown ofthorns, whether it's in scientific research and investment whether it's inensuring ongoing work in terms of soil and quality management to stop inflowsfrom the land coming out to sea. There are all really important projects andthey'll be at risk if the Labor Party got their way and rip this money awayfrom supporting the reef.

Andfrankly Cathy O'Toole the local MP should hang her head in shame at allowingthe Labor Party to potentially threaten and risk that investment in the GreatBarrier Reef.

Journalist: Sorry a few more questions from me. What are the localbusinesses and how many other local businesses have benefited from this scheme?

SimonBirmingham: From EFIC funding?

Journalist: Yes.

SimonBirmingham: Look we will have to come back interms of details there.

Journalist: Okay sure.

SimonBirmingham: So it's a very commercially focusedprogram, and of course we support other local businesses in a range of wayssuch as Liquip, the business we just visited who are doing a cracking job indeveloping new trade export opportunities and that business is supportedthrough our export market development grants scheme. We look in terms of how weget the best bang for taxpayers' dollars. We don't support businesses for thesake of handouts. We support them because if we grow them in a smart way,they'll be able to employ more people, create more jobs and this is a wonderfulexample in the tourism space. But just this morning seeing there a businessexporting more with manufacturing jobs in Townsville. A business heregenerating more tourism jobs and opportunities here in Townsville is ademonstration of the opportunities in the Townsville economy, and why it is youneed a strong economy to keep supporting them.

Journalist: What is the outlook for 2019?

SimonBirmingham: Well 2019 in the economic sense, webelieve Australia is well-placed. 2019 will be the year in which our budgetcomes back to balance. And that's been a long hard slog to recover from theexcessive wasteful spending of the Rudd and Gillard years and our Liberal-NationalGovernment is bringing the budget back to balance while at the same timecutting taxes for small and medium sized businesses. Cutting taxes forhardworking Australians because we keep spending under control. But through astrong economy we're still able to invest record sums in our schools andhospitals. So it's a positive year in that sense but it's a year in whichAustralia will reach a turning point. There will be a federal election nextyear, Bill Shorten and the Labor Party think they've already got won, that'swhy they think they can get away with saying they're going to jack up taxes by$200 billion dollars. It's like businesses higher tax, it's like workingAustralians more tax, put their hand in the pockets of retirees and take moretax out of those retired Australians. This is what is at stake next year. Andif Labor gets their way and collect that $200 billion dollars plus of extrataxes, we'll see slower economic growth which will mean fewer jobs, fewer youthemployment opportunities and ultimately less money to invest in schools andhospitals. Thanks guys.

This transcript has been redacted in accordance with Digital Transformation Agency guidelines.

For a full transcript please visit

Media enquiries