TTF Outlook 2010 National Hotel and Tourism Industry Policy Summit
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,
Regional Development and Local Government
Leader of the House
Member for Grayndler
05 May 2010
Moving Transport and Tourism Forward
It’s always a pleasure to speak at a Tourism and Transport Forum event.
I spoke at the TTF Leaders Summit about 18 months ago in Canberra, when the global economy was in the grip of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Let me tell you, the feeling around this room today is a little more upbeat than it was on that day.
There is no doubt that the more than 200 member organisations of the TTF play an important role in the nation’s economy.
Tourism alone employs about half a million people in Australia. It is worth $90 billion to our economy.
Economic Stimulus Plan
Of course, over the past 18 months, the workers and businesses in the tourism industry have been dealing with the effects of the global financial crisis.
Domestic and overseas visitor numbers have been relatively flat overall with some decreases during last year. It is not surprising that holidays and trips are some of the first items that people cut back on during tough financial times.
Compared with the rest of the world, Australia has weathered the economic storm well – thanks, in no small part, to the Rudd Labor Government’s immediate and decisive action.
At the height of financial crisis- as stock markets fell, credit markets froze, and private sector activity collapsed – the Government put in place a $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan.
We invested a record $36 billion into our Nation Building program of road, rail and port infrastructure.
We did all this despite great opposition from the Liberal and National Parties.
But it worked.
Treasury analysis showed that our Economic Stimulus measures kept some 200,000 Australians in work.
It also confirmed that without the Government’s stimulus payments, Australia would have entered a recession.
In fact, Australia was one of only two developed economies in the world to avoid recession.
This is a significant achievement.
We supported jobs in the short term while investing in the infrastructure the nation needs for the future.
During the September quarter of 2008, our nation turned the first sod on a record high of $9.5 billion of transport infrastructure projects.
That financial year, public funding for transport infrastructure construction was worth $644 for every single man, woman and child in Australia – almost 50 per cent higher than in 2006-07.
I know that the benefits of this expenditure for tourism are not lost on the Tourism and Transport Forum.
Safe roads and efficient railways are necessary to sustain growth in tourism, along with high quality aviation infrastructure.
The Government’s Economic Stimulus Plan has laid the foundations to support tourism into the future.
Projects such as the $613 million Cooroy to Curra duplication on the Bruce Highway and the $618 million Kempsey Bypass on the Pacific Highway will create hundreds of jobs over the short term. But they will also ensure people and freight can travel more freely and safely through this vast nation of ours.
Equally our $236 million investment into the Northbridge Rail Link and $293 million for the Gawler Line modernisation in Adelaide will support employment in the short term while making our cities more vibrant and accessible for residents and visitors.
The Government’s historic investments in infrastructure extend beyond transport.
The stimulus package also led to $1.2 billion for community infrastructure projects. About 5,000 projects have been completed or are underway, as we speak.
Small-scale projects like upgrades to town streetscapes, community centres, swimming pools, bike paths, sporting ovals and playgrounds.
We have also invested in major projects, which will boost tourism across the country.
Like $36 million for a new Gold Coast Stadium which will both bring a new team into the AFL and take visitors to the Gold Coast during the quieter winter months.
In Tasmania, we provided $2 million to install lights at Bellerive Oval, which has meant that Hobart can host international night cricket matches for the first time. In fact, I had the honour of officially turning the lights on for the first Twenty20 match between Australia and the West Indies in February.
Also in Tasmania, the Government is providing $12.5 million to help construct the iconic Three Capes Track on the Tasman Peninsula.
That project will support 164 jobs and traineeships during construction, while injecting as much as $188 million into the State’s economy through tourism each year.
Just yesterday, I announced $13 million towards the $53 million makeover of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. The redevelopment will help attract international exhibitions to the MCA and deliver some $26 million every year to surrounding retail and hospitality businesses.
Investment in major projects and community infrastructure has helped keep Australia out of recession and put us on track for growth.
So it is timely that we are here today to talk about where to next in terms of future challenges.
The first of these challenges that I want to talk about briefly today is our cities, and how we can make them more productive, sustainable and liveable.
Despite the stereotypes many of our international visitors hold, Australia is in fact one of the most urbanised nations on earth.
And it is our cities that act as the gateways for these visitors.
In March this year I released the first State of Australian Cities report. It was compiled by the Major Cities Unit, which we established soon after coming to office.
The State of Australian Cities report has, for the first time, brought together data that tells us about how our cities are performing in relation to their economic productivity, their sustainability as well as their liveability.
It’s proven popular with some 170,000 downloads so far.
The report sets the scene for an informed discussion about the areas where Australian cities are performing well, and those challenges that lie ahead.
It provides some of the data we need to make policy and plan for the long term.
And the long term has some significant challenges. Treasury forecasts released earlier this year project Australia’s population will grow to around 36 million over the next 40 years.
That is not a target or a policy of the government – it is a projection.
And that projection has started a vigorous debate in Australia.
The Rudd Government welcomes that debate.
The Prime Minister has appointed Tony Burke as Australia’s first Minister for Population to develop the Australian Government’s population strategy.
My own view is that we should not be frightened by a growing population. But nor can we afford to be complacent.
The challenge for governments is to develop strategies that take us into the future in a very deliberate and planned way.
I think the reason that many Australians are concerned about population growth in our cities is that in recent years our capitals have struggled to cope with issues such as urban congestion.
The former government effectively abandoned Australia’s urban infrastructure on the basis that it was none of the national government’s business.
The result was a growing infrastructure deficit that the Rudd Labor Government has been working hard to fix.
And that’s why the Major Cities Unit is now developing a national urban policy to help guide our future decisions.
The national urban policy will be released later this year. It will outline the challenges and set the framework for how the Commonwealth’s future infrastructure investment will deliver more productive, liveable and sustainable cities.
Let’s be clear about just how vital our cities are to Australia’s future prosperity.
Our capital cities and regional cities are home to four out of five Australians.
They generate around two thirds of our national income.
One of Australia’s competitive advantages is the liveability of our cities.
This is an advantage that we cannot afford to lose. The lifestyle reputation of Australia and our cities helps attract so many tourists to our shores each year.
In fact, the most recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers analysis of 21 world cities – its Cities of Opportunity survey – finds Sydney doing relatively well across a range of important metrics.
Sydney is at, or near the top, for liveability and sustainability.
But it is less well ranked on its infrastructure and transport – coming in at 14th of the 21 cities in the survey.
Now that provides further evidence of the need for further infrastructure investment. Investment that is guided by evidence-based policy such as our national urban policy will be.
I want to make it clear that our focus on urban policy does not come at the expense of regional communities. Far from it.
More than $21 billion of our $36 billion-dollar Nation Building Program is funding infrastructure projects in regional Australia.
We understand the contribution that regional Australia makes to the economy as well as our character and heritage as a nation.
For example, here in New South Wales, domestic and international visitors to destinations outside Sydney generated 67 million nights of accommodation and $11 billion in income for regional communities.
In fact around 46 cents of every dollar spent on tourism in 2008-09 was in regional Australia.
The second challenge I want to discuss today is aviation. Just as our cities are the gateways for our economy and for tourism, it is at the airports of those cities where our visitors’ first impressions of Australia are formed.
On an island continent as large and remote as ours, aviation is a vital link for Australians as well as for visitors.
A recent report by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, predicts that the number of people moving through our capital city airports will climb by 140 per cent to 235 million by 2030.
Here in Sydney we are looking at a 4 per cent jump each year in people transiting – up to 72.9 million. Brisbane is looking at an increase of 4.9 per cent a year with an estimated 51.2 million people by 2030.
So, when I took office as the Aviation Minister, I was surprised that there was no such thing as a national aviation policy.
One of the first tasks I undertook was the development of Australia’s first ever aviation white paper. I had the privilege of releasing it at the National Press Club in December last year.
This document – Flight Path to the Future – was about setting out our vision for aviation.
It was about strengthening the competitiveness of Australian aviation while maintaining our enviable safety record.
It gives industry the investment certainty they need.
Such as through the establishment of a joint taskforce to plan for Sydney’s future aviation needs. The TTF, through Chris Brown’s membership, is playing a positive role in that process.
The White Paper also makes sure communities surrounding our airports will be properly consulted about developments at our airports.
It supports tourism, such as through our commitment to offer foreign airlines unlimited access to secondary gateway markets like Cairns, Darwin and Broome, as well as improved access to capital cities for those international flights which go through these destinations.
The tourism sector has also benefitted from the Open Skies agreement that we concluded with the United States in 2008.
Today, as a result, the route between Sydney and Los Angeles is served by four airlines. It has generated competition, put downward pressure on air fares and provided travellers with greater choice.
In fact, international passenger numbers between LAX and Sydney to the end of 2009 was 36 per cent higher than in the previous 12 months.
Despite the global recession, the growth in the popularity of air travel is likely to quickly return to strong historic levels. That’s why the aviation industry needs to continue planning and investing for the future.
I have spoken this morning about the critical importance of having a long term plan that is underpinned by targeted infrastructure investment.
When we came into office we were faced with a choice. The Government could have remained disengaged from our cities, our communities, and the transport systems that serve them. We could have sat back and done nothing about the global financial crisis, an approach the opposition advocated.
But if we did, working families, local communities and businesses would have suffered the consequences.
Instead, what we have done is articulate a vision for Australia.
A vision for a more productive, more sustainable and liveable Australia. It’s one that attracts and excites visitors from overseas whilst encouraging Australians to enjoy the magnificent diversity this country has to offer.
The contribution that the tourism and transport sector can play in that process will be strongly influenced by the level of partnership and cooperation that you, as industry members, can achieve both among yourselves and with government.
It is important that TTF provides strong leadership within the industry to work with government.
In doing so, you will be making a real contribution to Australia’s future prosperity.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.