Keith Topolski: What better way to talk about the long weekend than talking tourism with the Federal Trade and Tourism Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham. Minister, welcome to Good Morning EP.
Simon Birmingham: G’day Keith, great to be with you.
Keith Topolski: What brings the Federal Trade and Tourism Minister to the EP on this long weekend?
Simon Birmingham: Look it’s, you know, obviously this region is a trade and tourism powerhouse and South Australia exports around $250 million worth of seafood, around $1.3 billion worth of grains and this region is a huge contributor to those export volumes. So I’ve been here, yesterday I spent the day with Rowan Ramsey and Peter Treloar who made sure I had a packed program of talking to the grains industry, talking to the different components of the seafood industry about their export focus but also again seeing some of the incredible new facilities in tourism developments that have happened in this region in recent times that are really lifting it to a whole new standard.
Keith Topolski: Well certainly those seafood exports with the snapper ban — but we’re not going to get into that, we won’t angry up the blood of all the locals here. But something that I think will have an impact on the domestic tourism sector was the interest rate cut during the week. How is that going to boost the tourism sector here on the EP?
Simon Birmingham: Well, we’ve had big tax cuts legislated through the Federal Parliament. We’ve now had successive interest rate cuts. So all of those things will put more disposable income back into people’s pockets, or reduce their costs. We’re also seeing now the Australian dollar at a slightly lower level which means that for international visitors their dollar stretch a little bit further and it becomes that bit more accessible to disburse into the regions and to come to areas like the Eyre Peninsula. So all of those things bode well for tourism and certainly encourage people to get out there and spend and experience what is one of the best regions in the world.
Keith Topolski: Without a doubt. I can still remember going overseas and, back in the days when the Australian dollar was buying a dollar-ten American you’d pick up a brand new shirt for $3 and it was Ralph Lauren, and this is just insane. But then on the flip side, because the dollar is going down against the US dollar, that does make domestic tourism far more attractive.
Simon Birmingham: Well it, certainly it helps our export industry — it makes them more competitive overseas. It helps our tourism industry — it makes it more attractive to international visitors. So there is, there are definite economic pluses to a lower dollar and of course its one of the reasons why having a floating exchange rate was one of the, you know, the big reforms of the 1980’s that has continued to yield dividends for Australia. But the thing that of course really attracts tourists to a region like this is just its amazing high quality environs. And getting out to Coffin Bay yesterday and seeing what’s being done in terms of promoting the oyster experience out there, seeing the new Line and Label Restaurant and Winery facility that’s being developed — these are very high quality tourism products that build on experiences like diving with the sharks. And this is a region with plenty to offer and I’ll certainly be going back, having been a frequent visitor over the years, but the first time I’ve been back as the Trade and Tourism Minister, be going back as a Tourism Minister newly energized to sell Port Lincoln and the Eyre Peninsula back to the rest of the country and the world.
Keith Topolski: I certainly hope to get more visitors on the back of that. One thing I did want to touch on, the Prime Minister spoke overnight about China picking up a bit more responsibility in trade. How is that going to help the exporters here on the EP if China picks up that little bit more of responsibility?
Simon Birmingham: Well China is Australia’s largest trading partner; it’s also now of course a vastly stronger economy and nation than it was a couple of decades ago. And China needs to make sure that it plays a role commensurate with its size and scale in the world in terms of the responsibilities it accepts through fora like the World Trade Organisation and elsewhere. But Australia has a very valued partnership with China, we seek to maintain that, to cooperate as much as we can in our region, globally and the economic relationship we share is one that is mutually beneficial. Many of the minerals and food products that go from Australia to China have helped to fuel China’s growth and prosperity and so that’s good for China as well as being good for Australia.
Keith Topolski: Certainly can’t argue with that. And what else is the Government doing to help tourism businesses here on the EP with the, obviously as I mentioned before, the snapper ban — we’ll see a bit of a decline according to some tourism operators here. So what other boosts are being given to businesses here on the EP?
Simon Birmingham: We’re investing record sums in terms of our support for Tourism Australia, their marketing drive. We also have ensured now that in terms of the Building Better Regions Fund, which is one of the key grants programs that we run across the Government to support regional Australia that dedicated sums of that — at least $40 million out of each of those grants rounds go into small regional tourism grants. So I'd be urging local communities — I'll be catching up with the mayor very soon from leaving the studio straight to talk to the Mayor — to be thinking about doing their applications for that funding and their ability to be able to use that to lift the quality of their community based tourism infrastructure that stands alongside those really impressive private sector investments that we've seen here.
Keith Topolski: Well certainly a great opportunity to get out and explore the EP on this long weekend. Very timely that you should come and visit us on the long weekend. Federal Minister for Trade and Tourism Simon Birmingham, thank you so much for joining us this morning.
Simon Birmingham: My pleasure, thanks Keith.
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