Subjects; Great Keppel Island, tourism infrastructure, rail trails, Emma Husar.
RUSSELL ROBERTSON: So we’re here today and we’ve had a great discussion with the local Keppel Council and I’ve got with me the local Keppel Member, Brittany Lauga, Queensland Senator Murray Watt and my great friend Anthony Albanese, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure. Today was about talking to local tourist providers and the local Capricorn Enterprise to find out what the local industry needs to boost it along, to keep this and grow this local area. And it was a great meeting, some great outcomes and I look forward to coming back and working on these as a candidate to try and deliver some solid outcomes for the local region.
JOURNALIST: What were some of the concerns this morning raised with you?
ROBERTSON: Things like GKI. Things like access to that and no work from the local Federal Member to match the hard work that Brittany’s doing. We want to do that, we want to get in and assist the local tourist foundations and the local market to try and increase tourism here and grow this region into a significant tourist economy.
JOURNALIST: Once the election’s called and you are obviously up and running, if you get in what are your priorities going to be with the Keppel and the Capricornia tourism sector?
ROBERTSON: Well I want to see it grow, I want to put my heart and soul into this area and make sure we can get GKI up and moving again, not to be left behind like the local Member has done. I want to try and see some real productivity, some real tourist gains in this local area.
JOURNALIST: What brings you to our neck of the woods today sir?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’ve held roundtables right around the country about tourism. Tourism has been identified as one of the super growth sectors. There’s already around about one million Australians employed in the tourism sector, but we can do much better.
The growth in domestic tourism will be important, but what will be a real game changer is the growth in international tourism. We had more than 50,000 visitors to the region from overseas last year, but we can do much better and what that needs though is attractions like Great Keppel Island to be able to fulfil it’s potential.
Today we had an opportunity to talk about the sort of programs that are required. We’ve had the State Government offer $25 million on the table to fix up water and power for Great Keppel Island. But we’ve had at the Commonwealth level a failure to invest in tourism infrastructure, whether it be major projects like that or whether it be the programs that used to exist like the T-QUAL program, making small grants available to private operators who want to improve their business and therefore create more local jobs and expand their economic activity.
Today one of the groups that we met with was the group from the Capricorn Caves talking about just that, talking about the opportunities that are available. We used to have a Tourism Infrastructure Regional Fund that has also been abolished by this current Government.
So we want to prioritise regional economic development and we want to prioritise growth in tourism. These are sustainable jobs, these are jobs in which we need to create career paths for locals to be employed. We need to make sure we maximise this amazing environment here to produce not just a wonderful lifestyle for people who live in this great part of the world, but economic opportunity and jobs so that young people can stay in this community and continue to work in a sustainable way.
We’ll have further meetings, we’ve organised today, in Canberra just next month when operators from Northern Australia visit the capital for meetings in Parliament House. But we think there are huge opportunities here and I look forward to working with Robbo as the local Member for Capricornia to make a real difference to this community.
JOURNALIST: You talk about tourism infrastructure – we’ve just done a story this morning about they want to extend – they have a rail trail here that goes about – I think it’s 3 kilometres at the moment – they want move out (inaudible) … and make it like a 20 kilometre or 35 kilometre loop to go out and come back. Would you be pushing for some funding to extend the rail trail?
ALBANESE: Well rail trails have been an enormous success, I know from the last time when I was in Government as a Minister we funded many rail trails right around the country because they did make a big difference for people who either walked or who cycled on those rail trails. The good thing about it is it brings people to a region not just for an hour or two but for a week or longer. People are prepared to come and stay, it increases the visitor nights and I’d welcome any proposal to give that consideration if we were in government.
JOURNALIST: Do you welcome Emma Husar’s return to the Labor Party?
ALBANESE: Well Emma Husar is in the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: As a sitting Member.
ALBANESE: Well Emma Husar is the sitting Member for Lindsay. She has made an announcement that she wouldn’t be recontesting at the next election and I certainly welcomed Emma back to the Parliament when she returned for the last sitting fortnight and I wish Emma all the best in whatever she decides to do with her future.
JOURNALIST: And in recontesting the seat.
ALBANESE: Well she has said that she’s not recontesting the seat. That’s a decision that she has made and I respect that decision.
JOURNALIST: Has Keppel been too long in the waiting, it’s been nearly 10 years now – like it’s yes and no and should we have taken the Towers licence years ago.
ALBANESE: It’s been far too long, far too long. We met with other operators of course on Great Keppel Island who are doing their best under difficult circumstances to keep their business going, to keep employment going on Great Keppel Island. But what clearly it needs is for this issue to be resolved. It’s good that it will be resolved, that there’s now a timeframe on it in terms of the licence that Tower has and I really look forward to advancing this project and seeing Great Keppel Island not just restored to its best, but I think it can be much, much better than it was even before.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.