Interview on ABC Radio Melbourne Mornings, with Virginia Trioli

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Philausophy tourism Campaign; Uluru; Horse racing industry; Daniel Andrews Agreement with Mainland China.
30 October 2019

Virginia Trioli: And now we’re trying a new approach. It’s about the Philausophy of Australia. Yeah, that’s what it’s going to. It’s called the Philausophy, as in P-H-I-L-A-U-S, aus, O-P-H-Y. It aims to get international visitors to immerse themselves in the Australian way of life. But what is that Philausophy? 

Senator Simon Birmingham is the Federal Tourism Minister. Senator, good morning.

Simon Birmingham: Hello, Virginia. Good to speak with you. 

Virginia Trioli: What would you say was Australia’s Philausophy?

Simon Birmingham: Well properly saying, it’s more of Phil-aus-ophy with the end, but …

Virginia Trioli: Should have spelt it O-Z then. 

Simon Birmingham: Well we could have, we could have. And the execution of this campaign will vary from market to market, to make sure that it nails it in terms of the localised factors and different cultural factors. So this is about the broad campaign strategy, which is to say that just sending pictures of our fabulous beaches, or the magnificent Grampians, or the spectacular Great Ocean Road, is wonderful. But we also have to make sure that the character of Australia comes through in all of our international campaigning. Because ultimately, what do people want when they come on a holiday? They want to have a great time. They want it to be fun. They want it to be memorable. And so the people they engage with and the attitudes they find are as crucial to that as the sites they see and the experiences that they enjoy.

Virginia Trioli: It's a $38 million campaign. So what are the benchmarks that the Federal Government has set in order to see that the money's been spent well and that you've achieved your outcomes? What are the KPIs? Are there numbers around this in terms of tourism increase that you hope to see?

Simon Birmingham: So we'll work through that as we execute this across each of the 15 different markets that Tourism Australia will be active in over the next three years. So at this …

Virginia Trioli: You haven't set those figures already?

Simon Birmingham: This is about a rolling series of different campaign activation that will occur. And in each of those markets, we'll be looking at what we think the potential for growth is. As a country, we set some 2020 targets in terms of tourism visitation and spend, and we have exceeded those. And we're going through a longer term strategic process now, we’re looking at our 2030 targets, obviously these types of campaigns play into that. But we also want to make sure that all of the different aspects aren't just about marketing, but also about getting new investment, developing new tourism product, ensuring that we have strategies to get people out of the cities into our regions deployed as well.

Virginia Trioli: Now I'm getting the reaction that I hoped or not- I won’t say hoped, I anticipated we'd probably get. We thought this might happen once he started talking about Philausophy. This on text, Minister Birmingham - oh I thought you were joking, awful. But to hear you confirm that that's actually the title of it, that seems to be upsetting some this morning. I guess you can't please everyone when it comes to tourism campaigns, but you mentioned at the beginning, what's actually wrong with showing the rest of the world our amazing mountains, and beaches, and coastlines and the like? I would have thought that at a time of where it's harder and harder to find a clean and green environment, that actually would be a selling point for Australia.

Simon Birmingham: And we absolutely still do that. But it's about integrating that with the fact that there are truly world-class breathtaking experiences that people will have beyond the sites that they will see. That they'll engage with people that will make it fun, and enjoyable, that it's actually about trying to enliven the personality of the campaign beyond a series of images. Those images are absolutely still going to be front and centre and I want to reassure listeners of that. And also, as I say, that the Philausophy approach is one that isn't a tag line that's going to appear on every single commercial, or the like, people shouldn’t look at it that way in the same way some of the intro pieces that you played. It is the broader marketing strategy that Tourism Australia, following extensive research, has developed to basically say you've got to bring the Australian character and life to the fore in these campaigns, as well as the Australian landscape and scene.

Virginia Trioli: A couple of quick questions on other issues before I let you go. One relates to your portfolio directly – well two actually – with the climb at Uluru closing. Do you have any concerns about declining tourism numbers there now?

Simon Birmingham: No. Look I trust that the Northern Territory and Parks Australia authorities are working together with traditional owners will really continue to drive the amazing different experiences that exist at Uluru. We’ve seen the Field of Lights which if listeners haven’t seen it, I’d encourage people to get up there, this amazing sort of night time visual display that exists now…

Virginia Trioli: Yes.

Simon Birmingham: …that is truly spectacular. Of course a range of other cultural experiences that people can have. And the onus in a sense sits on all of the different tourism marketing bodies, but particularly the operators in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to make sure that they are stepping up a notch now so that the community feels not a downturn, but hopefully a benefit of tourists coming, still visiting, still spending but spending on those truly local cultural experiences.

Virginia Trioli: We’re well and truly into cup season here in Victoria and given what we know now about cruelty existing in the thoroughbred breeding and horse racing industry following the 7.30 story on that, would you be surprised if people stayed away from the horse races now?

Simon Birmingham: Well I hope that the industry, as I know many were talking about following those shocking revelations, really does respond to give confidence to the community that its addressing those concerns. I hope equally that we don’t see activists who won’t listen to reason and won’t listen to the industry cause disruption or damage to what is a very important part of Victoria’s economy and particularly Victoria’s tourism appeal as the Spring Racing Carnival. I think these issues should be able to be addressed and managed but we do know from what we see in terms of farm invaders and others in different parts, that there extremists and activists who just seek to drag down industries and get a negative headline. And I hope that they aren’t given the scope to detract from the Spring Racing Carnival, but the industry absolutely steps up and gives people confidence that the concerns that have been demonstrated are being addressed.

Virginia Trioli: And just finally, if we’re talking about tourism China of course is one of our very big places and sources for tourism and as you know now the Premier here, Daniel Andrews, has forged ahead with signing agreements with Mainland China Government for its USD$3 trillion Belt and Road initiative, pushing infrastructure into other countries and joining with other countries in building that. On a scale of one to 10 how ticked off are you that Daniel Andrews has gone ahead and done that?

Simon Birmingham: Well I haven't spent enough time thinking about his actions to be able to rate it aside, from the fact that-

Virginia Trioli: Well we know that it’s irritated the Federal Government greatly.

Simon Birmingham: I don't think he's given any substantial tangible answer as to what the benefits to Victoria of this are.

Virginia Trioli: So you have spent some time thinking about it.

Simon Birmingham: And what the actual tangible- well, you’ve asked me and I'm giving you my response here as to what are the actual tangible benefits that flow to Victoria and this is the type of action that if it were to be done it would usually be done by a National Government. Our position is that where Belt and Road investment that occurs in countries in a way that is delivering needed infrastructure, that it’s financed in a sustainable way then Australia welcomes it, we welcome that from any party who is willing to help development across our region. But it's got to be necessary infrastructure, sustainably financed that respects the sovereignty of other countries. And they’re the key criteria and alongside that we will happily work with China or any other partner.

Virginia Trioli: Simon Birmingham thank you. 

Simon Birmingham: Thank you Virginia. 

Virginia Trioli: Simon Birmingham is the Federal Tourism Minister.

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