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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2140


Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (19:40): Good evening, colleagues. I want to extend to you a warm invitation to come and visit north-east Victoria in autumn. From Thursday on, we are celebrating our High Country Festival. So, tonight, I want to talk a bit about why, Mr Speaker, you should come north and members at the table should come south. I want to talk about the importance of tourism to the economy. I want to talk about some of the exciting things that we've got to do and put a call-out to the government about how absolutely important infrastructure is for our public transport and mobile phone coverage—round 4 of our mobile phone coverage for a really good NBN. Without this infrastructure, it makes it really hard for our tourists and our tourist businesses to do business.

Tourism is increasingly one of the largest industries in my electorate of Indi. The area known as the High Country includes six main shires: Alpine, Benalla, Indigo, Mansfield, Towong and Wangaratta, and the three major Alpine areas of Falls Creek, Mount Buller and Mount Hotham. Together, they attract over three million visitors, who spend over $692 million. As such, tourism is accounting for 20.3 per cent of the gross regional product. It employs over 7,900 people, which is 20.2 per cent of regional employment. In the most recent data, collected in September 2017 for domestic travel, the High Country received over 1.6 million domestic overnight visitors. Visitors spent nearly 4.8 million nights in the region, and the region received 10.3 per cent of visitors and 10.8 per cent of nights in regional Victoria. They are some of the statistics. It is not only local statistics that are important.

What I want to talk about before I get into the delights, Mr Speaker, of why you should come north is that the Productivity Commission has just released a report talking about transitioning regions. What this Productivity Commission report tells us is that in a cross-country analysis of drivers of regional economic growth the OECD found that infrastructure and connectivity were critical enablers. This includes investment in regional transport infrastructure—a call-out to the new Deputy Prime Minister and minister for regional development. We've got to fix our trains. There is investment in regional infrastructure and also connecting relatively closed and isolated regions to external markets, and ensuring the transport infrastructure capitalises on geographical positions. That's Indi to a tee. We've also been told by the Productivity Commission that building capacity in regional communities involves investment in infrastructure that increases connectivity and enables the movement of goods, services and people, and communication between people.

So there are lots of reasons why you should come and visit Victoria and spend your money there. But let me just whet your appetite. Mr Speaker, I suspect you might be really interested in the Wild Deer Hunting Guiding and Fishing Expo. It is taking place next weekend. No? Wild Deer & Hunting Adventures proudly presents the 2018 hunting, guiding and fishing expo. It's the biggest hunting, guiding and fishing expo in the Asia-Pacific region.

Let me try mountain biking, Mr Speaker. Mountain Bike Australia, in conjunction with the Alpine Cycling Club, is going to present the 2018 MTBA Downhill National Championships in Bright. Maybe not? So let me suggest the Wall to Wall Festival in Benalla. That may be more to your liking. This is Australia's most exciting annual street art event. I'm going to be there, so come and say hello—maybe the member for Scullin? The Wall to Wall Festival will liven things up in Benalla. It's in its fourth year. This festival brings together a dynamic combination of local, national and international artists who do murals across every single wall in Benalla. Walls that you didn't know were there get decorated.

If that's not to your taste, there is Tastes of Rutherglen—that's wine. Mansfield shire has Tenors on the Turf. Murrindindi has the Regional World's Longest Lunch, at Acheron. Lake Mountain has great activities at Easter time. Towong has the Man from Snowy River Bush Festival in Corryong, Wangaratta has the A Hitch to the Sticks Festival, and the City of Wodonga has their wood-fired pizza opening. But the piece de resistance is the Yackandandah Folk Festival. It's on the weekend before we come back at the end of March. There is music, community and fantastic things happening. Mr Speaker, maybe you and your family could get in your car, roll up the highway, turn off to Yackandandah and come via Beechworth and the wineries of Milawa. We would enjoy your company.