Aug 21, 2016

Time to invest in tropical North Queensland

The Coalition Government must reverse its do-nothing approach to tourism and infrastructure and start investing in Tropical North Queensland to kick-start jobs and economic growth, improve road safety and boost trade and tourism.

It could start by funding the $6 million Cairns Airport Access Upgrade which only Labor committed to during the federal election campaign – the same campaign in which the Coalition failed to produce a tourism, aviation or shipping policy at all.

It should also dump its counterproductive tax on working holiday makers.

Since 2013 the Coalition has not funded a single new major tourism or infrastructure project in Tropical North Queensland. There is not one new road project on the Bruce Highway that wasn’t initiated and funded under the former Labor Government.

Instead of getting on with vital safety and productivity upgrades, the Government has taken a go-slow approach. In the 2016 Budget it cut $118 million from the Bruce Highway for the 2016-17 year compared with what it promised in 2015.

The Government has also sought to cover its inaction in Queensland by claiming credit for former Labor Government projects and reannouncing them as its own, including the $210 million Cape York Roads Package.

Giving a project a new name does not make it a new project.

In the 2015 Budget, the Government unveiled its so-called Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility amidst great fanfare. Fifteen months later, not a single project has been announced.

Tropical North Queenslanders deserve better than this. The Commonwealth must play a lead role in supporting infrastructure investment which will grow jobs, help diversify the economy and encourage private investment.

That’s why during the recent federal election campaign, Labor announced that it would take $1 billion from the fund to finance a Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

The planned expansion of Cairns International Airport is a good example of a project that could have applied for concessional finance under Labor’s Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

The airport has a $1 billion vision to develop the airport, which has seen a rapid increase in passenger numbers in recent years.

Cairns Airport has a 20-year master plan to expand the airport, with an aviation enterprise precinct and a commercial precinct, creating over 2000 jobs in construction and 5300 long-term jobs once the expansion opens.

Infrastructure Australia’s recent audit forecast that Cairns will be one of the two fastest growing airports in Australia. As a major tourism gateway and destination for the growing Asian tourism market, it is a major jobs opportunity for Queensland.

Tourism has been identified by Deloitte as one of five super-growth  industries set to turbo charge the Australian economy and jobs growth over the next 20 years.

If the Coalition Government is serious about creating the jobs of the future it must step up and invest in Tropical North Queensland so it can fulfil its potential as a tourism powerhouse for Australia.