The Minister for Trade and Investment, responsible for tourism, Andrew Robb today welcomed the benefits the Northern Australia White Paper will have for Australia’s tourism industry.

“Tourism and hospitality can be our fastest growing sector in coming decades – particularly in the Great North – but only if we have the right visa settings, attract more investment and provide better access to skilled labour,” Mr Robb said.

“The tourism industry employs almost one million Australians and is our largest services export valued at $30 billion. Today’s White Paper recognises the importance of tourism not only to the development of Northern Australia but to the Australian economy as a whole.”

“In particular, reforms to visitor visas including the introduction of a 10-year validity visa for Chinese visitors, roll-out of e-lodgement for China and India, trialling a fast track service and enabling Chinese language lodgement of visitor visa applications, will ensure Australia is well placed to capture a growing share of these markets.”

“Similarly, improvements to the vital Working Holiday Maker program including allowing backpackers to work for 12 (instead of six) months with a single northern employer, and granting a small number a second year if they work in northern tourism, will greatly assist the tourism sector that faces 56,000 job vacancies this year. Backpackers spend on average $13,000 during their stay, so these measures will increase tourism expenditure, particularly in regional areas.”

Actions to be pursued in the White Paper include:

Visas

  • Reforms to visitor visas from China and India – introduction of a 10-year validity visa for Chinese visitors; further roll out of e-lodgement for China and India; trialling a fast track service and a trial of Chinese language lodgement of visitor visa applications.
  • Allowing backpackers to work for 12 (instead of six) months with a single northern employer.
  • Expanding the Working Holiday Maker Visa Programme to allow participants to work for longer in high demand areas in northern Australia, with a small number allowed a second year on their visa if they work in northern tourism.

Tourism Businesses

  • $15.8 million to extend management advice and other business support services to businesses in the northern tourism industry under the Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Programme.

Labour

  • $2.5 million to make it easier for northern businesses to receive advice and grants that upgrade their skills under the Industry Skills Fund.
  • Pursue more flexible foreign worker arrangements in high demand areas by finalising the Northern Territory Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA); continue to work with Western Australia on a DAMA for the Pilbara; and invite Queensland to propose a DAMA.
  • Expand and streamline the Seasonal Worker Programme by reducing costs to business, increasing worker numbers and allowing more countries and industries to participate.
  • Pilot a two-year visa for up to 250 citizens of the Pacific microstates (Nauru, Tuvalu and Kiribati) for work in the north.

Investment

  • A major investment forum in Darwin in late 2015 to attract investors and expose them to opportunities in the north; supported by a publication of investor ready projects.
  • $2 million to set up a ‘single point of entry’ office in Darwin with the Northern Territory Government to cut red tape and facilitate major project approvals.
  • $3.7 million to develop an infrastructure pipeline with the jurisdictions to provide investors information on potential infrastructure needs so more can be built sooner and cheaper.

Aviation

  • $39.6 million to upgrade airstrips and subsidise air services in remote Australia.
  • Establish a business stakeholder group to develop a plan for improving aviation and surface transport connections in northern Australia.

Media enquiries

  • Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555