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Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia
Opportunities and methods for stimulating the tourism industry in Northern Australia

CHANDLER, Councillor Rob, Chairman, Remote Area Planning and Development Board

MARTIN, Councillor Andrew, Remote Area Planning and Development Board

MARTIN, Councillor Tony, Remote Area Planning and Development Board

Evidence taken via teleconference—


CHAIR: I welcome representatives from the Remote Area Planning and Development Board. For the Hansard record could you please state the capacity in which you appear before the committee?

Councillor Chandler : I am mayor of the Barcaldine Regional Council and chair of the RAPAD, the Remote Area Planning and Development Board, in Central West of Queensland. It is owned by the seven councils of the Central West.

Councillor A Martin : I am mayor of Blackall-Tambo Regional Council and I am also the RAPAD nominee for the Outback Queensland Tourism Association, which is a state government auspice tourist body. It is specifically for outback Queensland, obviously.

Councillor T Martin : I am also CEO of Qantas Founders Museum at Longreach. I am a councillor for the Longreach Regional Council.

CHAIR: I will just go through a formal process and then hand over to you guys. Just so that you know, we have here on the committee Senator Patrick Dodson, who is from Broome and who is a Labor Senator for Western Australia. My very capable deputy chair, Warren Snowdon, is the member for Lingiari, which is effectively the Northern Territory, slicing Darwin city out of it. I—Warren Entsch—am the member for Leichhardt. The electorate is from Cairns up to the mainland of Papua New Guinea. It incorporates Torres Strait and Cape York. We also have here Michelle Landry, the member for Capricornia. The electorate takes in Rockhampton—

Ms LANDRY: Up to Collinsville and out to Cromwell—

CHAIR: And Sarina, south of Mackay. So you are talking to four committee members who are quite familiar with regional and remote Australia.

This hearing is a formal proceeding of the parliament. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of the parliament. Evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard, as I indicated before, and it attracts parliamentary privilege. I will invite one of you to make a brief opening statement. Then we can fire off some questions.

Councillor Chandler : I want to give you a very quick overview of the RAPAD organisation. It is the regional organisation of seven councils of Central West Queensland. We cover roughly 23 per cent of the state of Queensland. We are all part of the development of northern Australia boundary line. We are within that line. We have a board of directors of the company—which are the seven mayors. We have a CEO and staff attached to that. Underneath the RAPAD board of directors, we have various organisations that we call technical committees. For instance, we have the outback regional road group, the outback regional water and sewerage group and energy group, Central West pest management. We also have a digital strategy group that we are forming at the moment. We also have a body underneath us that has met a few times now called RAPAD tourism. Those technical groups feed back up into the board of directors with recommendations to move forward. We also roll out the federal government's CDP scheme and the Work for the Dole scheme in partnership with Employment Services Queensland. We have our own regional training organisation, RAPAD SKILLING, which is highly successful.

As a RAPAD organisation, we have commissioned a couple of reports. One was a digital strategy report. Another one was through the Regional Australia Institute. We would be very happy to pass those reports on to the commission, as those reports clearly identify that we as a RAPAD group of councils need to move forward in the tourism space. That is a fairly broad overview of what we do at RAPAD.

CHAIR: First of all, can I take up your offer there. If you could pass those two reports through to the secretariat, that would be very useful.

Councillor Chandler : Okay.

CHAIR: Have you finished your opening remarks?

Councillor Chandler : Yes, that will do for me.

Mr SNOWDON: I am very interested in getting a deeper understanding of the range of activities that you do and how you then work with the councils that come under the remit of the Remote Area Planning and Development Board. How do you get them to act in a consensual way to get the outcomes that you want?

Councillor Chandler : It is quite incredible. RAPAD has been in its position since the early nineties. I suppose over the last 10 years you have seen a very proactive organisation. It is really no secret why RAPAD is such a successful organisation, especially in the state and federal government's eyes. We all have the same needs, wants and aspirations. We are a big patch of country, primarily agriculture and tourism. We are pretty much on the same page because we don't have a great diversity of country or communities of interest.

Mr SNOWDON: You say that the work which you have undertaken indicates you need to do more in the tourism area. What sorts of things do the reports tell us?

Councillor Chandler : The reports tell us that we really have to get into that connectivity amongst ourselves and to advance the digital innovation strategy that we have embarked on. Obviously, the transport services that we can avail ourselves of out here at the moment are extremely expensive. The cost of getting the tourists or our visitors to this destination is, to a certain extent, somewhat grossly overpriced. Sometimes it can cost us up to $800 return for a flight to Brisbane, whereas you can fly from Brisbane to Auckland for half the price. However, we see that we, as a group of councils, although we can get involved in the infrastructure spend, need to be out there promoting more development, more tourism development and more spend in the high-end area of attractions and those things. We have, arguably, the best attractions in the nation, with the Qantas Founders Museum, the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and the soon-to-be-rebuilt Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton amongst a mob of other smaller attractions that put the package together. I would really like to ask Tony Martin, who is the CEO of Qantas founders, to give you guys a little bit of an overview of the commercial side of running a huge attraction like Qantas founders.

Councillor T Martin : Thank you, Rob Chandler. Good morning, everybody. I will give you a little snapshot of what we do as a major tourist attraction in the central west and Longreach. Firstly, we are not-for-profit. We are not owned, operated or funded by our namesake, Qantas airlines. We currently employ 35 staff. That is over $1 million in wages locally. Rob Chandler mentioned some of those skilling programs through RAPAD. Over the years, our team have accessed those programs to help sustain skilled labour in the region, which is often a challenge. Last calendar year we received just over 41,000 visitors. On the length of stay, with all the packaging that we do with other neighbouring tourism operators, we saw about a three- to five-night stay, which equated to an over $10 million spend as result of those 41,000 visitors last year. I think we all appreciate how the tourism dollar multiplies and rotates in communities such as ours.

It is the significant investment that we make on behalf of our industry as well. I will give you an example. We are $700,000 into creating a new exhibit of an aircraft called a Super Constellation. It has been a 2½-year project to date. Historically, if we look at the other big assets and attractions that the museum has acquired, we saw the arrival of a 747 and a 707 aircraft—

CHAIR: Can you speak up a little, mate?

Councillor T Martin : attractions arrived in Longreach. We saw between a 10 and 12 per cent increase in visitation, which equated to another 2.53 jobs for the museum and the region. Super Constellation is said to result in another 15 per cent increase in visitation. Therefore, I will need another 3.5 jobs created here at the museum. That is just a small snapshot of one major attraction at the museum. There are a lot more opportunities, not just at the museum but in the region with various projects like this. We need the enablers; we need support with the infrastructure. We need those economic enablers to help stimulate a good return for our industry.

You probably heard the topic of drought mentioned this morning through your various conversations. We do not harp on about the natural disaster that we are going through. It is very well documented and very well versed. However, tourism continues to be, in remote regions like ours across the outback, our insurance policy through these hard times. Unlike the rain, tens of thousands of visitors are guaranteed through our region every year. It is one of the fastest growing industries, as I am sure you are aware, in the country, but we need to have some proactive discussion around the enablers and what more we can do, including the things we need to put in place.

I would like to be very complimentary of government on some of those programs, through ARIA—Accessibility-Remoteness Index Australia—for example. That is essentially for better funding outcomes led through the Building Better Regions Fund and their outcomes. There is also the ASBAS-NATI—that is a big acronym: the Australian Small Business Advisory Services and Northern Australia Tourism Initiative. I would like to compliment you on those. More work needs to be done in those areas to include work for wider regions in northern Australia.

I have probably gone a bit off topic from my little snapshot. I will hand back now. Thank you.

Mr SNOWDON: Thank you. It would be good to have a deeper appreciation of the 41,000 tourists who come. Do you have any demographic information on them—their age profile, whether they are mainly in the drive market, are they grey nomads, the proportion that flies in and flies out?

Councillor T Martin : We have some pretty good stats on those. Largely, you are looking at 80 to 85 per cent being grey nomads, which come by road. The regional disbursement is huge. I often give the example that, although an attraction in Longreach like ours is putting a new major exhibit online to increase visitation, that disbursement goes right the way through the country, because people are travelling tens of thousands of kilometres, accessing all those smaller communities as a result of coming to see major attractions within this wonderful part of the outback.

We see a small—probably two to three per cent—international visitation. That is slowly increasing. However, in the future a lot of products will be coming online, leading into the year 2020. That is going to be a huge year for the outback, with various programs and projects coming to fruition at that time, including for us, with a very, very large project under Building Better Regions, when the next round opens in, we think, October.

However, we are also seeing a huge increase in travelling families. If you look at the caravan sales that are published by Jayco and other companies like that, there is anything from a 25 to a 35 per cent increase in sales for not necessarily your traditional hard tin-can-type of motorhome and caravan. We are seeing more of the off-road adventure camping type, and those sales are predominantly going towards the younger family market, who are investing in holidaying in Australia, holidaying domestically. We are seeing a huge increase in that. This school holiday period that we are in at the moment is phenomenal. We are collecting data at the moment because we are still in it. We have got another week of New South Wales school holidays to go to collect that data, but early signs are that there is a huge increase in that travelling family market.

There is some great work and there are some great initiatives being done through Tourism and Events Queensland. I think it might be in its third or fourth year with subsidised travel for school students on those educational trips to the bush. We are seeing increases in those as well, and they need to be sustained. I am not sure when our grey nomad market may fizzle out, but we have got to look at it and—

Mr SNOWDON: I don't think so, mate.

CHAIR: I think you guys are going to capture a fabulous opportunity that is just starting to evolve as the bitumen rolls out right across—

Mr SNOWDON: And as the baby boomers get older. You'll have no problem.

CHAIR: I think you're going to find there will be more and more.

Mr SNOWDON: Don't worry—you'll see Warren on the road!

CHAIR: That's Snowdon, by the way.

Ms LANDRY: The secretary will be one of them soon!

Mr SNOWDON: Just incidentally, my brother drove through western Queensland, through Longreach, from Alice Springs going to Canberra last week, doing exactly what you talk about. One of the issues for us is really understanding—and we don't—the size of the grey nomad market.

Councillor Chandler : That is the importance of the Outback Way project, for example, and sustaining that. I hate using the word 'unique', because everybody thinks they have got the unique product, but we do have amazing landscapes. The outback for city dwellers in Brisbane, for example, is not Toowoomba, although Toowoomba is, I am sure, a great experience. When you see people get out here and meet people in our community and experience what we have to offer, we have got world-class experiences and product out here. I will give you an example from a recent tourism summit I went to in Noosa, if you allow me a couple of minutes to explain. Tourism Australia showcased their brand-new ad, and there was this wonderfully produced production of Chris Hemsworth as the pin-up boy showcasing Australia. It will be national and international.

The images we saw were beach, surf, rainforest, more beach, more surf and events in Melbourne and events in Sydney and more beach and more surf. When it came to question time, I said to the Tourism Australia marketing representative that we have multi-award-winning product at a national level, the outback, and we are punching well above our weight in acquiring awards. It is a very astringent procedure and process that we win at the state, and we take home gold at state and we go through to the national level. I asked how our region can get better representation on that national and international stage through Tourism Australia. I was disappointed with the answer. They just pointed me back to our RTOs and our state body, Tourism and Events Queensland. I think more needs to be done there. There's a plethora of subjects to get through, and I am conscious that unless I am told to I do not shut up.

Mr SNOWDON: I know a couple of people here like that!

Councillor Chandler : I would like to talk about the partnerships that we have formed as the RAPAD group across a wide range of government departments, state and federally. I would like Andrew Martin, who is the RAPAD representative on Outback Queensland Tourism Association to talk about the outback as they see it and the partnerships that they are developing with RAPAD.

Councillor A Martin : The scale of the outback has been lost on most people. Mr Snowdon, Mr Entsch and Ms Landry, you have some idea of it. The number of times I speak to government people, particularly in Canberra—and it is not their fault I guess; most of it is our fault—and they think that places like Munduberra, for example, are in the outback. That is an hour and a half from Brisbane. We are 11, 12 or 13 hours drive from Brisbane. The OQTA are forming partnerships with RAPAD. OQTA, Tourism and Events Queensland and Queensland Tourism Industry Council have done a great job marketing the outback. It is up to us to start selling it. Individually we are having awful trouble.

We have connectivity problems. We have connectivity with the roads. People can drive here. The gentleman who drove from Alice Springs to Canberra the other day was on the national highway and, for all intents and purposes, it is in great order. But we have some of the most unique attractions. The wide open, rolling downs country, for example, which has been like this for millions and millions of years. The ex-inland sea, the age of dinosaurs, all of those things—half of them are inaccessible to the tourists because the roads do not link up. We cannot digitally sell them properly because we have dreadful internet and mobile phone services. In some areas they are just non-existent. Some people are after that—getting away from the mobile phone.

If you are a tourist and you want to access areas or educate yourself on what we have to offer, nine times out of 10 there is no wi-fi. If there is wi-fi, half the time the internet services are down, inadequate, too slow, inaccessible, too expensive or people do not know how to access it. We have huge gaps in areas of basic information for tourists to come here. Councillor Chandler and me and the local Indigenous land owners, the Bidgera people, are currently working on one of the most unique anthropological sites on the planet. It has the three basic stages of Indigenous art and it is one of the few examples on the planet where this exists and may become accessible.

There is no mobile phone access out there; there is no internet; there are no roads. This could be—along with Longreach Hall of Fame and the Qantas Founders Museum—one of the great, high-end drawcards for outback Queensland, but we are going to have awful trouble, because we are on state roads and federal roads, and people do not know where it is. There is not enough money around to get all this collectivity happening. Access to it is going to take years to get right, and we are desperate to start providing high-end accommodation. It is not there at the moment. We have some very good accommodation around, but it is tailored to 40 or 50 thousand people who get here. We have the potential to be entertaining hundreds of thousands of high-end tourists through this great big theme park and that is just the RAPAD region. We cannot do it—there are not enough roads, there is not enough digital collectivity, there are not enough phones, and the ones that are there are scratchy and bad. I think the other Councillor Martin is pretty lucky to be on the phone this morning, because someone spiked an optic fibre up near Julia Creek, which is about 1000 kilometres from me. Most of western Queensland is without internet and mobile services. This is about the third day since it happened.

We have lots of those things we need to address before we can really start accessing critical mass, if you like, of becoming a pretty good attraction. We can become a bloody terrific attraction. We are not just waiting for government grants. All of our councils and most of the people I know in outback Queensland are getting up off their toodies and are desperate to form partnerships with federal government, state government, tourism organisations and overseas operators. We are desperate to get all of those things happening, but it is pretty hard to do that when the infrastructure is decades behind what we need.

Councillor A Martin : Commissioners—is that the right terminology?


CHAIR: No. Call us what you like.

Mr SNOWDON: Just don't call us late for lunch.

CHAIR: 'Members' would be fine.

Councillor A Martin : Members of Warren's committee—

CHAIR: Whichever Warren you're talking to.

Councillor A Martin : The RAPAD group of councils is looking to partner to deliver our digital strategy in line with the Glentworth report. We are looking to deliver a high-performance tourism network. We have identified some of the tourism product gaps, but we need some assistance there with major operators and the major attractions to identify those gaps like 'Blacks Palace', which Councillor Martin was just talking about. We are looking to bridge the gap between those really good tourism ideas that need capital investment and the state and federal governments and private investment. The RAPAD group of could partner with councils, for instance, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, which has a few serious dollars backing it. Whatever we do in central-west Queensland is going to promote the south-west, the north-west, the Gulf, tropical North Queensland, the Cape and across into the Territory. I am pretty confident that the board of directors of RAPAD could offer NAIF $1 million to partner with us—we would ask the state to partner as well—for a $4 million project to deliver those outcomes for tourism in the central west.

CHAIR: You have given us a very comprehensive overview there, but there are a couple of questions that have been coming up that would be relevant to your interests and I would be interested in getting some feedback from you. It has been suggested by a number of witnesses that one of the problems we have, particularly as you get further away from the main tourism centres—there is a huge potential for traditional and Indigenous tourism, particularly in the outback and remote areas. One of the problems is identifying those opportunities, because a lot of people might be sitting on an asset or sitting on something where they do not realise the opportunities that they could capitalise on if they showed an interest in the tourism market. Would you agree with that statement?

Unidentified speaker: I totally agree, absolutely. There are so many opportunities out here for landholders to get into farmstay type businesses that would potentially droughtproof their properties. People who are visiting out here at the moment, especially your international tourists, want the real thing. We tell the story of Qantas, we tell stories through the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and the Waltzing Matilda Centre and we tell the story of the dinosaurs, but our primary business out here is agriculture and if the graziers tell the story about sheep and wool and cattle and lambs and goats and all those sorts of things, that's the real fair dinkum experience that you can't get worldwide.

CHAIR: And there would be opportunities out there because one of the other things that's identified as being something that's really sought after is cultural or Indigenous experiences. Are there opportunities for development of those in the region within the eight shires?

Councillor A Martin : In our seven shires we obviously, through rescue and RAPAD skilling—we also have another organisation that RAPAD is very much a part of, which is Red Ridge. It's about taking arts and culture out to all of our communities. It's a philanthropic organisation that we run with. We have got fair dinkum Indigenous tourism, cultural tourism out here that is just waiting to be explored. The Central West Aboriginal Corporation and Indigenous people—they just need a bit of a hand. Local government can do that—give them a hand to showcase their culture—and visitors love it.

CHAIR: The argument is: while you've got those centres like the hall of fame, the aviation museum and the dinosaur stampede area in Winton et cetera, by having add-ons and other smaller experiences it keeps visitors in the region for longer and, of course, increases the spend. One of the suggestions is trying to find a way of supporting regions in identifying products across northern Australia in the more remote areas so that there can be an opportunity to start to focus on the development of product. Would you agree that that needs to be done?

Councillor A Martin : Absolutely, Warren, and we can assist. We are a very strong organisation and we can assist in doing that. We can—

CHAIR: That is all I needed to know. I am sorry to cut you off, but I am sure there are others who have a couple of questions and we're going to run out of time.

Councillor T Martin : Warren, if I may: I have just been made aware this morning of the Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation 'Care for country, care for culture, care for our people'. They've put together a strategic plan for 2017 to 2021. It's a collaborative group. I haven't had a chance to read it; I've only just been made aware of it this morning. There's this very active group here, and I think—

CHAIR: Can you organise a copy of that to come to the committee?

Councillor T Martin : Yes, with permission. It's going to be launched on 24 July. At the Ship Inn at Brisbane, there's going to be a launch. I'm happy to share more information with the committee as and when I get it.

CHAIR: After that will be fine. I have two other quick questions. First of all, there are, of course, protected areas within those eight shires. Usually, when they identify a natural gem, they immediately put it into a protected area. First of all, do you have any comments in relation to the adequacy of infrastructure within these protected areas to facilitate tourism visitation? Secondly, what's the experience of entrepreneurial locals that may want to do some sort of public-private partnership with the national parks or whatever to be able to construct something, whether it be traditional landowners there who have an interest in it or whether it be other local entrepreneurs? Are you aware of any examples where they've been able to negotiate an outcome to get permit access or a lease on it that allows them to provide infrastructure necessary to facilitate a tourism operation?

Councillor A Martin : Alan Smith of Outback Aussie Tours in Longreach has been working with the state and the national parks to open up the national parks to more tourism product, because, as you say, a lot of the beautiful big waterholes along the Barcoo and Thomson are tied up in national parks. The infrastructure is there. Diamantina Gates between Winton and Boulia-Bedourie—wonderful, wonderful places that can be opened up. I know that at Welford National Park, where Alan has an agreement with the national parks, it is very difficult to get that continuation of traffic there until such time as the Windorah-Jericho road is completed.

CHAIR: But, in operating within the parks, a lot of the evidence we are getting suggests that there is not an inclination within national parks to allow private investment in infrastructure or partnerships in operation with these particular areas. Is that something that you're aware of in your shires?

Councillor A Martin : Yes, it is difficult—very difficult, especially for those other national parks that are owned by the state. But I think we are making some sort of inroads into that. At Bladensburg National Park at Winton, we've recently had a big function out there with the Outback Trailblazer event that went off extremely well, and we had very good assistance from them to do that. But, as far as accommodation sites are concerned, you have that campervan and motor home policy where you leave no trace. I think more can be done in that space, and I think you make a very good point that they generally protect exquisite sites.

CHAIR: My last question: have you heard of the Northern Australia Tourism Initiative?

Councillor A Martin : Yes.

CHAIR: In that, there are a number of different ones, but in this particular one, which is designed to assist or support northern Australian tourism focused businesses in expanding or growing, there is an entry level of a minimum turnover of $750,000. First of all, are you aware of any businesses within your eight shires that have successfully negotiated a deal with this fund? Second, do you think that the entry level at $750,000 will exclude a significant number of those small businesses or individuals within those shires from making the application?

Councillor A Martin : Excluding the big attractions, there are tourism operators that are probably getting up into that $5 million gross figure that have been in the business for 25 years plus. I think the entry level there of three quarters of a million dollars in turnover is enormous. It way exceeds someone wanting to start up a farmstay or to start up an Indigenous cultural tourism product to get to that sort of level.

CHAIR: That's the message we are getting right across the whole spectrum. Given that this is to develop new product and to expand product, it would be argued that those businesses that you said have been established for 25 years that they have other income streams or finance streams available to them that would not be available to a mum and dad operator, a small property operator or a small Indigenous group that wants to start doing some cultural tours and that.

Councillor A Martin : That's right; a lot of start-ups. I think you could easily split that fund and have one that is much lower than that. I'm talking about something that is probably 50 grand.

CHAIR: The argument is, and I'm sure you won't disagree, that there are small operators up there with roadhouses or camping blocks or even homestays that may well have been making a wage out of it—whether it be 50 or 100 grand a year—and have been doing so for decades and nobody could argue about their sustainability but they would never have opportunities to grow that business by accessing a fund because of that entry point.

Councillor A Martin : That is right.

CHAIR: And, of course, with all the bitumen that is rolling out now through the Northern Australia Roads Program and the Northern Australia Beef Roads Fund—the $600 million and the $100 million—we will see a very significant increase in road traffic. Particularly as that bitumen grows, the grey nomads will certainly be following it in larger numbers.

Councillor A Martin : Yes, I think in line with that we could have some really good freedom-of-choice parks along those roads and that sort of stuff. There could be really good pull-over parks a couple of hundred kays apart, where visitors can pull up and nest for the night. I think that we as an organisation, as RAPAD, would obviously like to help the northern Australia development committee roll some of this stuff out. We are in a very good position to do that. Whatever we do really benefits the whole of Queensland, New South Wales and the Territory, and we would be keen to continue the discussion.

Senator DODSON: You mentioned earlier that you are also administering the CDP or an agency?

Councillor A Martin : Yes.

Senator DODSON: How many people are on the CDP?

Councillor A Martin : Do you mean the unemployed?

Senator DODSON: Yes.

Councillor A Martin : At peak, about 18 months ago, we were up around 400, but now that a lot of those people have moved away because of the drought I think our numbers are down to around 200, just off the top of my head.

Senator DODSON: What are the employment prospects to keep any of them in the region?

Councillor A Martin : With the ongoing drought there is just nothing happening. There is no stock in the paddocks at all, so the rural industry out of town is not employing. But we are rolling out $7½ million of state and federal government funding to build wild dog exclusion fences around the rabbit area. Our jobseekers are not only spring weeds but also building fences and gaining some real skills in that area, and we have put quite a few into full-time fencing with fencing contractors and the like.

Senator DODSON: In addressing particularly your communication challenge and some of the road challenges, you would you have some infrastructure matters that could attract and sustain the workers in the region.

Councillor A Martin : That is the idea. The Works for Queensland fund that the state government has just rolled out has been very warmly received in Queensland. It is an untied grant for us to build very small infrastructure projects and to upgrade existing infrastructure by looking after our depreciation. So we have got a lot of people coming into work that way, but tourism infrastructure projects create work and that is what we need for our unemployed.

Councillor A Martin : If I can add to your first question, Mr Dodson, which was to do with heritage tourism, there would be enormous potential and several sites that I could think of just in the central west to lever a lot of unemployed people, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, into these tourism projects. The Black's Palace one is the first one that comes to mind because we have been talking about it but there is enormous potential to have rangers, people keeping the site clean and fencing it off and directing traffic and offering education in their own culture, for example. There are a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that are on the CDEP scheme from Cunnamulla right through to Winton that would be very valuable add-ons to tourism infrastructure projects.

Mr SNOWDON: Look at the great job the land and sea rangers are doing. That program could be multiplied by four because they are doing a fantastic job, those fellows.

Councillor T Martin : I would like to concur with my learned colleagues here. Longreach Regional Council has been very successful in getting the Reconciliation Action Plan, the first regional council to do so. As a result, we are doing some interpretive walks through the Iningai Park with the potential of employing Indigenous tour guides to interpret that landscape, and the flora and fauna as well. So there are programs and projects playing out here.

CHAIR: Those land and sea projects that you are talking about with the rangers, they could very much be a very successful working on-country tourism project. People would get a lot out of going out and travelling with them to see what they are doing and being involved in it.

Councillor T Martin : That is what I was saying earlier on. The visitors to this country want to see the fair dinkum thing and there is nothing better. Imagine going on a walk out of Longreach with Ronnie Beasley. Ronnie would have them on toast within a minute and it would be the best experience they ever had.

CHAIR: Are you talking bush tucker now?

Senator DODSON: Thank you very much, gentlemen.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. It has been very useful. And congratulations on the initiatives that you have been able to deliver there. Some of the material you have provided here certainly ties in very much on where we seem to be going with the other evidence that we have received. I think it is fair to say that the tourism potential and the product that is available out in areas such as yours is quite immense. The last thing you want is a huge volume of numbers. What you want is a more of a boutique product with smaller numbers and a higher yield into those areas. Is that fair to say?

Councillor T Martin : You can talk about the high-yield customers. The grey nomads and the self-drivers are the bread and butter and are very good. But if you get into that high-end stuff, the fly-in fly-out international visitors out of Germany and those places, you work half as hard for the same money.

CHAIR: That is exactly right. And of course it preserves the assets and spreads the benefit more broadly across the community.

Mr SNOWDON: You cannot forget your bread-and-butter.

CHAIR: The bread and butter always flows through but, at the end of the day, the high-yielding market is the one. It is just a matter of identifying the uniqueness of the products that you have available there and the opportunities. People sitting on it do not realise that the creek they have been swimming in all their lives or where they have been poking around down the back of their paddock is something that people would give their eye tooth to spend some time there. And, of course, them paying to do that would help to supplement the locals over a difficult period, particularly in the drought that they are facing at the moment.

Unidentified Speaker : There is a fellow called Ludwig who invented a Swett welding machine for Volvo and Mazda and whatever in Germany. I took him out to a creek crossing one night—nothing special to me—and we just had a couple of beers. He said it was the most exquisite place he had ever been to in the world—an old concrete crossing on the river where he watched the brumbies come in and have a drink. You can take high-yield customers to that sort of stuff but you can't take the big crowds to it.

CHAIR: Could you imagine then one of the local old Murray elders, who would have sat down and told him a bit of history of the country, where they are, what they are doing and what that would have added to the experience.

Unidentified Speaker : We have a couple of them like Jimmy Crombie and those sorts of fellows. They talk the language. They would show them special sites. You can't do that anywhere else in the world.

CHAIR: You can't buy that. Thank you very much indeed. We have asked you to send those couple of reports over, including the Indigenous one when it is released on 24 July. We would appreciate it if you could send a copy of that to the secretariat as well. We would be very interested in having a look at that. Our next hearing is in Northern Territory in a couple of weeks. We will be travelling around quite extensively. One of the things that is emerging out of this is finding some sort of entity that can travel through all of these remote areas to do an audit of, if you like, assets. When I say 'assets', I am talking about Indigenous, local community people and natural assets and putting something out there that will provide information on products in areas that could be available for development. That might be a way of assisting councils or groups like your own. What are your thoughts on that?

Unidentified Speaker : Just very quickly, my thoughts on that are that there are no better people to do the audits for you than the locals. If you would like, the RAPAD group could do that audit on the tourism assets and cultural assets that we have out there. We can partner up with Ronnie Beezley and the rangers, Tony Martin and the big operators on all the tourism product we have got. Resource the regions to do it for you.

CHAIR: That is not out of the question. There needs to be a consolidation of the opportunities identified and then we can focus on the best way to develop them in order to spread the tourism opportunities right across the Northern Australia region.

Unidentified Speaker : Okay.

CHAIR: Thank you very much indeed. If you could get that information to us as soon as you can—the two reports of 21 July and the third one in relation to the Indigenous initiative after it is released on 24 July—to our committee secretariat, it would be greatly appreciated.

Unidentified Speaker : We hope to see you all in the outback some time soon. Come on out and experience it.

CHAIR: We all live there, actually. I have spent a lot of time there. I will certainly be out there next week, up past Weipa. I know Pat lives in Broome. He will probably be going home shortly. As for Warren Snowdon, he is a bit of a bloody Bedouin. When his swag is not in Alice Springs, he is all over the bloody place.

Unidentified Speaker : We would love to host you here, if you have time.

CHAIR: Absolutely. Thank you much indeed. We will certainly get out there.

Unidentified Speaker : Thank you very much, and thank you, Michelle.

Ms LANDRY: Thank you.