Phillip Thompson: I'd like to welcome back to Townsville Minister Birmingham and also welcome Senator Ian Macdonald, the senator in the north. We are here today at Adrenaline Dive and Snorkel and it was pleasing for me to learn that the reef is thriving here in Townsville and we have supplied the funding for the boat, and we all know that in Townsville if the tourism's going well the economy's going well. So I'd like to offer the minister and then the Senate for a couple of words.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks Phil and it’s great to be with you our LNP candidate in Herbert and with my good friend and colleague, Ian Macdonald, a passionate Queensland senator who is who has given such service in terms of his work championing Townsville region, and of course north Queensland more generally.
I'm really pleased to be here on my first visit as Tourism Minister to Townsville, a place that I've been thrilled to visit in numerous capacities over the years. But it's really important to be here as Tourism Minister because of the huge importance tourism makes to the Townsville region and the local economy. We've seen under our government some strong growth, most recently around 10 percent growth in international visitation which means that together international and domestic tourism contributes around $1 billion dollars’ worth of economic activity to the Townsville region. That's a huge employer, a huge driver of jobs as well as support for local families, local businesses and of course underpinning the type of services that you want to see in a region like Townsville.
And it's really great to be here at Adrenalin Dive and Snorkel, a local business who are doing great things and are backing the future of tourism in Townsville. I'm pleased that our government through the Export Finance Insurance Corporation has been able to provide loan funding to support this business' expansion and purchase of a third vessel in terms of their dive and snorkel business.
That's of course then punting on the future and believing that they can keep growing a tourism business here out of Townsville, trips out to the Great Barrier Reef and to give thousands of tourists from overseas and around Australia a world-class experience snorkeling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef, on a brand new ship that's going to be commissioned and in service in just a couple of months’ time. This is a really exciting venture, its a demonstration that on top of trade growth, we've got tourism growth all of it underpinning growth in jobs, economic activity which is one of the reasons why we've seen across the country record jobs growth, record youth jobs growth, we've been able to drive down unemployment that sustains the type of economic activity that's allowing us to balance the budget, deliver tax cuts for small businesses like this for hardworking Australian income earners, and all of it because we have a strong economy.
That's what's at risk at the next election. The strong economy we're delivering thanks to our investment in balancing the budget, thanks to the lower taxes we've created and the environment that's allowing people to invest in the future threatened by $200 billion dollars plus of new taxes that Bill Shorten will leverage on businesses, on employees, on retirees, on investments, on people's savings, on electricity bills. All that of course will make it so much harder to do business compared with the positive environment we've created.
Ian Macdonald: It's also great to see my old mate Simon Birmingham here, Simon is the Trade Minister as well as the Tourism Minister and they are both intertwined. In Townsville we have such a lot of export businesses, many of which aren't even known about. But we also have some fantastic tourist destinations Magnetic Island that hidden gem, we've got Mount Speck, we've got the Burdekin, we've got the reef not far away, we've got the Yongala Dive, we've got the Strand and River Way. There Is just so much in the Townsville region for tourism and it's great that the Tourism Minister is here early in his career as Tourism Minister just to see what this part of the world has to offer.
Journalist: With the new boat and that loan scheme can you talk us through the scheme and how other businesses might be able to tap into it?
Simon Birmingham: So EFIC is a government agency that runs essentially commercial-based loans but really backing and supporting export-oriented businesses - businesses who are either growing our trade or making sure that the trade surpluses we now reap, routinely deliver month after month continue. But also backing tourism businesses that of course play such a big role in bringing extra dollars into Australia from overseas businesses .And now businesses need to make a commercial case to EFIC, this is not free money, it's about prudent financial management that encourages and helps businesses who might be struggling to get banks to loan them the money, can instead get the support through an agency like EFIC that allows them to be able to invest here in a new boat, a new boat that is going to dramatically increase capacity, it will be the biggest of the three boats that Adrenaline Dive and Snorkel has. It will allow them to have more punters going out to the reef, getting a world-class experience and of course it will only help to build the reputation of Townsville as a tourism centre in northern Queensland.
Journalist: The stats that show international visitors are up 10 percent, do you think we could do more maybe advertising campaigns that sort of thing for the Townsville, north Queensland area, overseas?
Simon Birmingham: Well we really look to work from a Tourism Australia perspective to promote the best of Australia and then to partner closely with state and local tourism agencies. And we know we've got some strong partners locally, but we do want to make sure that we see the type of continued partnership and investment out of tourism bodies in tropical North Queensland willing to back and invest the promotion in international markets. Our government is invested in the Dundee campaign in North America in the Undiscovered campaign across parts of South East Asia, we're seeing strong growth in international tourists out of these markets and we believe the investments we're making record marketing spend in tourism at a national level can only be good news in terms of getting more people distributed across regional Australia, that's where we really want to encourage our international visitors to get in.
Journalist: With the reef and having parts of it bleached, is there a need to let people know it is open for business and also the efforts to restore the reef?
Simon Birmingham: It's fantastic to see the extent of investment and community support for a healthy reef and also I think now an increasing understanding that the reef is healthy, it recovers from natural events like cyclones that have occurred throughout history, and will continue to occur and it recovers well because of course we work hard as a government to invest in its management. We have world class management through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. We've reformed (indistinct) as well to make sure that it is fit for purpose for the future and work alongside tourism industries.
We've made record investments in the future of the reef and including especially around the crown of thorns starfish, and just inside we were getting a briefing before about how successful and important our government's ongoing crown of thorns starfish management campaign has been to support divers out there on the reef to collect, to kill crown of thorns starfish, to make sure we keep those population numbers down so that the native coral and species can continue to flourish. Now, the reef is an awesome place to visit. Right now, today, we want to make sure that it continues to be in the future, which is why we've got record investment in the reef and we're going to continue to get that message out there to international visitors that there is no other experience in the world as high quality as visiting Australia's Great Barrier Reef and you can do it right here in Townsville.
Journalist: Labor's said it's going to try to claw back some of that investment to the Great Barrier Reef, for the half a billion dollars, do you think that's concerning if they try and claw that back?
Simon Birmingham: So we have committed record funding to support the management of the Great Barrier Reef into the future. And you've got to shake your head and wonder about the Labor Party who cry crocodile tears over the reef, who denigrate the reef, but then say they're going to rip away funding from the reef. I mean frankly, what is the Labor Party thinking when they say they're not going to proceed with our hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in supporting the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef. As a Government we've put that money on the table to give long term certainty and surety that the investment that is required, whether it's in managing crown of thorns, whether it's in scientific research and investment whether it's in ensuring ongoing work in terms of soil and quality management to stop inflows from the land coming out to sea. There are all really important projects and they'll be at risk if the Labor Party got their way and rip this money away from supporting the reef.
And frankly Cathy O'Toole the local MP should hang her head in shame at allowing the Labor Party to potentially threaten and risk that investment in the Great Barrier Reef.
Journalist: Sorry a few more questions from me. What are the local businesses and how many other local businesses have benefited from this scheme?
Simon Birmingham: From EFIC funding?
Simon Birmingham: Look we will have to come back in terms of details there.
Journalist: Okay sure.
Simon Birmingham: So it's a very commercially focused program, and of course we support other local businesses in a range of ways such as Liquip, the business we just visited who are doing a cracking job in developing new trade export opportunities and that business is supported through our export market development grants scheme. We look in terms of how we get the best bang for taxpayers’ dollars. We don't support businesses for the sake of handouts. We support them because if we grow them in a smart way, they'll be able to employ more people, create more jobs and this is a wonderful example in the tourism space. But just this morning seeing there a business exporting more with manufacturing jobs in Townsville. A business here generating more tourism jobs and opportunities here in Townsville is a demonstration of the opportunities in the Townsville economy, and why it is you need a strong economy to keep supporting them.
Journalist: What is the outlook for 2019?
Simon Birmingham: Well 2019 in the economic sense, we believe Australia is well-placed. 2019 will be the year in which our budget comes back to balance. And that's been a long hard slog to recover from the excessive wasteful spending of the Rudd and Gillard years and our Liberal-National Government is bringing the budget back to balance while at the same time cutting taxes for small and medium sized businesses. Cutting taxes for hardworking Australians because we keep spending under control. But through a strong economy we're still able to invest record sums in our schools and hospitals. So it's a positive year in that sense but it's a year in which Australia will reach a turning point. There will be a federal election next year, Bill Shorten and the Labor Party think they've already got won, that's why they think they can get away with saying they're going to jack up taxes by $200 billion dollars. It's like businesses higher tax, it's like working Australians more tax, put their hand in the pockets of retirees and take more tax out of those retired Australians. This is what is at stake next year. And if Labor gets their way and collect that $200 billion dollars plus of extra taxes, we'll see slower economic growth which will mean fewer jobs, fewer youth employment opportunities and ultimately less money to invest in schools and hospitals. Thanks guys.
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For a full transcript please visit www.senatorbirmingham.com.au/news/interview-transcripts/
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