Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia
Opportunities and methods for stimulating the tourism industry in Northern Australia

BRIGGS, Mr Chris, General Manager, North Queensland, SeaLink Queensland

CHAIR: Welcome. These hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter that may be treated as a contempt of the parliament. Evidence given today will be recorded. It attracts parliamentary privilege. I invite you to make a brief opening statement, and then we will fire off with some questions.

Mr Briggs : Thank you for the opportunity. SeaLink Queensland is part of the broader SeaLink travel group. Our headquarters are based in Adelaide, but we have operations almost right around Australia. We have 74 vessels with 1,200 staff. We have operations in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. We have vessels on hire in Victoria and we have operations in the Northern Territory. Predominantly, our focus has been passenger transport and freight, but wherever SeaLink has entered the marketplace, we have also brought with us a very strong focus on destination marketing and developing tourism capacity. We have certainly demonstrated that in more recent times in Indigenous communities with what we have achieved in the Tiwi island group. We continue to work strongly with the Palm Island community just a little way up the reef. We are publicly on the exchange. We listed in 2013 and we have continued to grow. We have a board that is continuing to look to expand our bases of operations. We are looking to move Northern Australia forward in the manner that it deserves against some of the competing interests of the southern states.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. I noticed in your submission you say you have plans for further investment in Townsville and Darwin. I am interested to hear about the scope of those plans.

Mr Briggs : We are currently in conversations with both the Northern Territory and Queensland governments about expanding what we can offer. We have a process running at the moment looking at a new terminal facility in Townsville. The current facility is well and truly outside of its growth. It is beyond capacity. The city deserves a proper tourism facility that services both Magnetic Island, Palm Island and other tour products from the city. We are looking to do that in the not-too-distant future as well as investing in new vessels. We are contemplating similar outcomes in the Northern Territory. We completed for the Northern Territory government a feasibility study for new routes across Arnhem Land and joining up what is ostensibly a harbour city. We will join up some of the communities. That is not just Mandorah, which is one of the services we provide at the moment on the Cox Peninsula, but Palmerston, which is one of the largest suburbs in the Northern Territory. We will be connecting that by ferry route as well.

CHAIR: That is a good idea.

Mr SNOWDON: How is that going?

Mr Briggs : As can be the case working with governments at times, things move slowly. As the flavour of government changes, it can slow things down as people have a view about whether it was their idea.

Mr SNOWDON: So it is fairly slow?

Mr Briggs : In the Northern Territory, actually, it has just picked up again. The conversations have become quite promising. Here in Queensland, we are hoping that there will be significant movement in the very near future.

CHAIR: There is an election coming up shortly. That is a great incentive for talking.

Mr Briggs : It is always the incentive.

CHAIR: For expediting outcomes. Grab every opportunity you can get. You recommended a central coordinating agency for tourism development in Northern Australia be established. This is of particular interest here. Could you expand on why you think it is needed and how it would differ from the federal government's body, such as Tourism Australia and the Office for Northern Australia? I would be very interested in that.

Mr Briggs : One of the things that we are challenged with here in Northern Australia is that there is always a very significant focus on larger centres. At times, there is a view about return on investment and that there can be a greater return to the Australian economy by focussing on existing centres of strength. Whilst that may be the case, it certainly does not help the case of Northern Australia. We believe without resources specifically focussed on the top end of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland and coming up with a decent strategy to move tourism forward, market tourism forward and develop infrastructure, we will not be able to achieve what could be achieved. We sit upon an absolute wealth of natural product. We have amazing places to go and visit, but that is impeded by air, road and rail access. Without people focussed—that is the reason for being—we will never get that moved forward.

CHAIR: I compliment you on that concept.

Mr SNOWDON: He does not do that lightly.

CHAIR: And I do not do that lightly; that is correct. I think there is a lot of sense in what you are talking about. When you look at a global focus that Tourism Australia has, it often misses out. It is not able to focus on something more specific like Northern Australia. Of course, with the Office of Northern Australia comes a whole ambit of things. Clearly, tourism is one area where I think it is going to create a huge opportunity. When it was first initiated, we all talked about agricultural opportunities. I think you can capture a lot of the outcomes that we are looking for in the Northern Australia white paper through tourism. I think it makes a lot of sense. I was just saying that we might be looking very seriously at that one and seeing how we establish it. I would be interested if you have any other input that you would like to make in relation to it rather than just say that you think this is a good idea. If there is anything else you would like to submit to the committee down the track on that, it would be very useful. We can have a look at it as we are deliberating.

Mr Briggs : Certainly SeaLink has a wealth of expertise and knowledge. The paper that you have before you was written by Paul Victory, who is my immediate boss, who is now based in Adelaide. It strengthens our company's view on its investment in Northern Australia, so that is a very good thing for us. We would welcome the opportunity to participate in a committee focussed solely on driving tourism forward and a strategy. I think you probably would be aware from your previous history that there is at times very strong competition between Cairns and Townsville, which is a bit unfortunate.

CHAIR: No. We love our southern brothers.

Mr Briggs : At times there are opportunities that either go to one or the other that is to the detriment of the other. I believe in having a cohesive strategy across the north, where all of those destinations are working together. Let us worry about how we divide them up after they have hit our shores and come out of the southern states. Let us get the access between Townsville, Cairns, Darwin and Kununurra, or whichever is appropriate in Australia, and get that northern route working. Get the drive route working. Get rail routes working. Get the air access sorted. Make sure that there is investment into those beautiful places that we have—Twin Falls, Jim Jim Falls and places like that further to the north past Cairns in the Cape York. Let us make sure that we are providing people opportunities to get there and that we are disbursing those larger Asian markets that hit Cairns and pretty much only benefit Cairns.

CHAIR: I think you have hit the nail on the head. We have spoken to other witnesses this morning. They are looking at a very significant influx of visitors to the area. The challenge is trying to develop product that will meet those demands specifically. But if you look broadly across, what we are trying to do is attract more and more into our region. Maybe you do need something from a hawk's eye view over the whole of the area. What we have endeavoured to do is to see Northern Australia as a region and maybe be more strategic in developing product. There is one last question from me. In the areas that you operate, how do you go in relation to the timely access to permits and the like to allow you to operate?

Mr Briggs : There have been challenges in accessing areas that we would like to be able to provide tourism product to. I spent 11 years in the tourism industry in Cairns and moved down to Townsville many years ago. I did spend my time within government here and have recently in the last three years moved across to the private sector. So that has brought into stark relief some of the challenges in gaining access. Some of the tools in use have been around for a long time and have not been reviewed. I am of the opinion—and this is the case around many places across the globe—that if it is not of value to the tourism industry and people are not coming to experience it and actually value it, it can be turned into something else that is nowhere near as valuable. I do believe that we should be able to access a greater range of areas than is currently the case. The speed at which those decisions get made is tantamount. Paul and I have been focussed in the business on developing tourism product specifically to Townsville. We are not interested that much in competing with the Whitsundays and Cairns. The Whitsundays has a lot of islands and Cairns has nice, easy, close access to the reef. Our reef is equally as gorgeous as Cairns's, but it is a bit further out so it is a bit more changeable.

CHAIR: What impediments have you faced?

Mr Briggs : Gaining investment into some of the local areas. We have a fantastic lighthouse—Cape Cleveland lighthouse. We have started a tour product out there. I never knew so many people are interested in lighthouses. Last weekend, we had two tours out there that were completely sold out. AMSA has just repainted the lighthouse itself. But all of the cottages there need significant investment. We have not had much success in drawing funding from government to be able to raise that sort of product up. But it is a fantastic example of a local product here that could turn into quite a significant attraction. Similarly, there are parts of Magnetic Island that are absolutely gorgeous that we cannot access either by land or sea because of current management arrangements.

CHAIR: With? Who controls those?

Mr Briggs : Of course, being national parks, it would be the Queensland government.

CHAIR: So it is Queensland national parks?

Mr Briggs : And the water access is jointly controlled by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service under NPSR. We have been talking to representatives of national parks about working on better access into some of the locations around Magnetic Island. We recently signed a partnership agreement with the National Park Foundation, which has a significant amount of funding available to it through some of its philanthropic supporters. We are looking at developing a strategy with them, because it has been difficult to get support from government to invest. Generally, the investment goes to the squeaky wheels of Cairns and the Whitsundays, because there is lots of tourism there. They generally tend to get a disproportionate level of investment and Townsville is left to make its own way. I do have a very strong affiliation with the product in Cairns, having worked there for a long time, but I do think we can be doing more and investing more here locally. We have been working with the Palm Island people to develop tourism capacity. We have started recently using a small jetty run by the Hinchinbrook council at Orpheus Island, Yanks Jetty, which is quite an historic site. Again, our groups and size are limited in how many people we can take there. We have been supported by national parks, however, to run slightly larger groups there as one-off events. A good example of that is the AFCM. One of their signature events is held at Orpheus Island at Yanks Jetty. We take about 200 people up to that concert. It is a fantastic opportunity for people. We would like to be able to do a bit more of that sort of thing.

CHAIR: You guys were not there, unfortunately. You talk about a lighthouse in the Whitsundays. Maybe you need to talk to AMSA about this. They have a lighthouse there. Is this one no longer functional?

Mr Briggs : Cape Cleveland is offshore Townsville here. We have the old existing lighthouse that is still intact, which is the one that was just refurbished.

CHAIR: But is it still functional?

Mr Briggs : It does not function. There is a modern lighthouse that provides that function now.

CHAIR: What they have done in the Whitsundays is they have actually leased out the area where the lighthouse and the old historical lighthouse keeper's cottages are that are no longer used. The obligation to maintain that infrastructure is in the hands of the leaseholder. It is interesting that you have a different way in which they are dealt with. There are some significant issues with crossovers from federal and state leases in that site. I think there are holes of a golf course actually in federal lease and the other, whatever it is—

Mr Briggs : And certainly those who are investing in that product in that part of the world have far, far deeper pockets that we do.

CHAIR: Do not worry. The challenge is still there. Any questions?

Ms LANDRY: I have one. I was looking through your submission here. You say that you built new marine infrastructure for Palm Island and that it took quite a few years to get it through. Could you tell us a bit more about what the hold-ups were with that? Was it to do with leases and licences, or was it across the sector?

Mr Briggs : The basic premise of how that came to be is SeaLink put private investment on the table to try to attract both state and federal funding to that project. The reason why we were interested in doing that was our timetable of servicing that community was around tide times and not the community's needs. The facility that was then eventually put in place pretty much gets rid of that. The connection with the Townsville community has been far improved. There were a number of impediments, so to speak, in relation to the speed, but they were more to do with the speed at which the funding came down the pipeline. Again, SeaLink has invested recently into that community. We have been assisting them with some planning of the marine precinct there. On a busy day, our commercial vessel is dropping off 270 people and trying to pick up 270 people plus their freight. The barge is there at the head of the jetty as well. When it is a nice day and the recreational fleet is active, it is a very challenging space. It needs to have some master planning and some significant investment placed into the community to help make that a safer destination.

At the moment, there is a very poor facility for people to wait for the ferry. You cannot get out of the sun. You cannot get out of the rain. When you unload your freight, it is not a covered space. We have been helping them do some planning to develop a suitable arrivals precinct that could potentially be used for arrivals for tourism and potentially an arts gallery when you bring people there as a focus point. So we are assisting them in moving that forward and working very closely with council. Council recently invited us to brief the Queensland government on that project, so hopefully we will be able to move that forward. But I suspect again we will need broader assistance.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You said that Cairns and the Whitsundays were getting more government investment in sea marine infrastructure. Did I hear you right?

Mr Briggs : Certainly it has been my experience over the years, looking at the hard infrastructure put on to, say, national park islands. There is a much more significant level of investment and presence in those regions. We have a limited number of walking trails on Magnetic Island. There should be a network of trails across the island and a couple of camping grounds so people can access some of the more remote bits of the island. But we have not been successful as yet. I do understand it is something that is being considered, but, again, the speed of investment is one of the things that is really challenging in this part of the world.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Apart from Magnetic, are there other places in your sphere of influence that need assistance or that would benefit from some state and federal recognition?

Mr Briggs : Certainly there is opportunity at Orpheus Island, where there is a resort and a research station from James Cook University as well as Yanks Jetty, which is the facility controlled by Hinchinbrook council. That is a beautiful island that deserves further investment. Indeed, the Palm Island group is significantly a gorgeous place to visit. Again, there is a view in relation to limited numbers and return on investment and being able to get up some of that investment into the islands. Equally, it is important to have that tourism signage up and down the coast on our major access routes. The drive tourism business here on this side of the coast is very significant, particularly with the youth adventure market and the grey nomads. But we have not done ourselves any justice in supporting with signage and better facilities up and down the coast to make that larger group. The Asian market will mature and look for opportunities to disperse, but if we have not made it easy for them, we will not get that dispersal down the coast that we deserve.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You were talking before about a master plan for Palm Island for the marine precinct. That is more for domestic RPT operations that you run rather than tourism, is it?

Mr Briggs : It is for both. So as we try to work with the community, or as we are working with that community to develop the tourism capacity, having somewhere that is actually pleasant for the tourists to arrive to and get out of the conditions is very important. Certainly there are future opportunities. Jason deCaires Taylor is an internationally renowned underwater sculpture. We have put money on the table with James Cook University, Townsville council, Palm Island council and TEL to bring Jason to Townsville. We are seeking to put into place offshore Townsville some big bold sculptures. Wherever that has been achieved elsewhere in the world—Mexico, Spain—they have managed to get 100,000 to 200,000 people annually to visit those underwater sculptures. That would be an international drawcard for us.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Just explain that. What are you talking about?

Mr Briggs : The artist basically makes sculptures. Some of those sculptures he does by casting actual people. They are of quite a reasonable scale. They are embedded onto the sea floor. They are made of a style of concrete that attracts marine growth. They become quite an attraction in and of themselves.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: For divers?

Mr Briggs : For divers and snorkelers, if you get the site right. Jason is coming over to help us develop a feasibility study and work out how to move that project forward.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You are looking at Magnetic and Palm?

Mr Briggs : The concept at this point in time is we would like to do an intertidal piece on the Strand. That gives people a clue that there is an opportunity. We would like to do some structures or sculptures at Magnetic Island along the snorkel trail, potentially again intertidal, and a major installation at the Palm Islands and potentially one out at John Brewer Reef, which is one of the closest. In our conversations around the structure at Palm Island, it has been suggested to us—and I agree with the concept—that it could be a major reconciliation piece for the people of Palm Island. It would be a potential opportunity to further develop tourism capacity in that region and be able to build eventually into a business that works off the island. We see it as a very rich opportunity, but it will certainly challenge the existing thinking within some of the management agencies as to whether that is an appropriate thing to put into the park. The gentleman's last name escapes me, but Jamie, the park manager in Mexico, is also coming to talk about his experience of putting a structure in the park. Our experience is that it can release some pressure from people visiting other areas. I think it provides a very rich opportunity to talk to people about Indigenous people's connection to land and sea country. That would have been originally land that people hunted on. The rise of the sea level and the formation of the Great Barrier Reef certainly provides a very rich interpretive environment.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Are GBRMPA aware of these proposals?

Mr Briggs : We have had initial conversations with the marine park authority. But, as has been my previous experience, managing agencies say, 'Yes, yes, yes. There is a process to follow.' Not too many people get out the other side of the process.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I will come back to Palm.

Mr SNOWDON: I was going to come on the back of the question, but you go ahead.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I will perhaps finish on this one. I will come back to Palm. We have had this conversation privately over the years. Is there a tourist demand to go to Palm? Is there some reason tourists would want to go there? We have heard a bit about this, but are enough of the Palm Islanders interested in having tourists there to make it a successful initiative?

Mr Briggs : Certainly we have been running a small number of tour dates each year, which has been growing. We have been working with them within the community willing to work with us and see the benefit of it. The group on Palm Island involved in providing the food offering, the walking tour and the arts tour is certainly something that has been very positive. We understand from the tours that we run that there is a significant level, even in the local community, visiting Palm Island. We do know from other markets, particularly the German market, that they are looking for an Indigenous experience. That is something Townsville can provide in the future. But we need a few of those projects to fall in place to be able to provide the supporting tourism infrastructure and provide a broader range of opportunities to make that a reality. We would love for boats to be running up into the Palms every day and for Palm Island people to be employed as part of those and even be running their own businesses as a part of that as well, providing snorkelling, fishing and diving tours. I am aware that the Palm Island people are working on a nice art installation of totems along their foreshore, which will represent all the different tribal groups that were placed on Palm Island and celebrate the traditional owners of those lands. They are also looking at trying to develop interpretive infrastructure around the history of the Catalinas that worked from that area. There is quite a reasonable wreck on the island as well. It is a rich investment that we could invest in and really create something very special.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thanks. Thanks, Chair.

Senator DODSON: Once you get away from these larger cities like Townsville and Cairns and go north, as you do, across even to the Kimberly, as I understand it, there are a lot of Indigenous communities. There are Aboriginal communities and Torres Strait Islander communities in that region. What is needed to enhance tourism from an infrastructure point of view that would assist not only those groups that are running some form of tourism but that would enhance it and help develop it and provide some of the opportunities you speak of in terms of the Palm Island potential? Is there any structure that assists the facilitation of this, or is it too small scale to worry about, or is there not enough value placed on the potential product that is there?

Mr Briggs : I think your latter comments probably are part of what prevents it. Very recently we developed a route between Groote Eylandt and Bickerton in the Gulf. That has had a significant number of challenges, but we have been able to establish that reasonably successfully.

Mr SNOWDON: What sort of vessel will it take?

Mr Briggs : It is only a very small 12-metre vessel, but we would like to expand that to the broader group of islands. The thing that prevents us being able to connect those communities to get social and health benefits and, from that, opportunities for tourism—they are beautiful parts of Australia—is the infrastructure. So we are at this stage running small boats that have bow loadings so we can run them up on the beach. We need proper marine infrastructure to be able to connect those communities so they can have sporting opportunities, social opportunities and cultural opportunities. It is certainly something that SeaLink is passionate about. That is one of the reasons why the Northern Territory government asked us to do the feasibility study across Arnhem Land.

Mr SNOWDON: So it runs from Bickerton to?

Mr Briggs : Groote.

Mr SNOWDON: How regularly?

Mr Briggs : We run a daily service there. We are challenged because we are running a small boat. Some of the dry season weather is a bit ordinary. But if the marine infrastructure were there to support that, you could put larger vessels on, increase the routes to a larger range of islands and connect those communities. It has certainly been our experience that where you facilitate good solid, reliable connections around a community's needs, a whole series of benefits flow for those communities.

Mr SNOWDON: I notice in terms of capital you make a reference to the Mandorah jetty.

Mr Briggs : Yes.

Mr SNOWDON: I understood there might have been some movement in that area relatively recently.

Mr Briggs : That would be an example of one of those projects where it seems to move at a very, very slow pace. It gets talked about on a regular basis. But it does need investment and it needs to be moved forward at some point. It is locally known as the jetty from hell because it is a handful to work on.

Mr SNOWDON: Yes. I know the jetty. We will be visiting the Northern Territory in the near future, so we can ask the Northern Territory government about that. I am interested in your product development strategy. You are the first witness we have had this morning who has even mentioned the term 'grey nomads'. I drive a lot on Top End roads, not in North Queensland very regularly but certainly in the Northern Territory, and you cannot jump over them, there are so many travelling. What is the situation here, do we know? You may not know. Do we know the frequency of visits from grey nomads and what their numbers are like up in this part of the world?

Mr Briggs : It is a fairly simple formula. The easier you make it for the grey nomads, the more of them you get and the further they go. I understand that there has been significant investment in the national highway system, but there is still a fair bit that needs to be done. Again, it is about that dispersal. There is the Savannah Way. My understanding is that the investment down to access into Kakadu and places like that is not what it needs to be and that numbers to Kakadu have dropped off.

Mr SNOWDON: I was thinking more of this region here in particular. We heard this morning about the need for high-end hotels.

Mr Briggs : Yes.

Mr SNOWDON: But what about campgrounds, the BIG4 and those sort of things? Are there sufficient places for the grey nomads to put their vans?

Mr Briggs : It has not been my experience that we have been in a position where we are over capacity on a regular basis. But certainly during peak periods we bulge at the seams. It is certainly an important market for us. We work with some of the camping and caravan parks quite closely. We provide offers for those travellers to visit particularly Magnetic Island. If we were in a position where we could extend our products to, say, Cape Cleveland, Palm Island and some of the Tiwi businesses, and, indeed, if we could get into the Gulf and places like that and provide those products on a regular basis, that gives access and the grey nomads will go. They will do those sorts of products.

CHAIR: Can I just say in answer to your question that in most of the small regional towns, if you are driving into them all the way up here, you will find RV friendly signs. They do not camp in the caravan parks and the like. A lot of them make showgrounds available for them or other sites where there is very little cost in actual parking. The value comes out of what they spend while they are in that town. You will find that a majority as you go through here have the big blue and white sign, which is for an RV friendly town. It says, 'Please come in and stay with us.' The councils generally designate areas for them outside the normal caravan parks.

Mr SNOWDON: It would be interesting to know what the numbers are. We have heard a bit about air traffic and the issues to do with the airlines. We have heard about the potential market from cruise ships. We may have heard it in Cairns, but we have heard nothing, that I am aware of, around the local Australian grey nomad market, which is absolutely gigantic. I am just wondering if anyone knows what the impact of that market is on the Townsville region.

CHAIR: We will put that on notice to Townsville Enterprise. They may well have the statistics.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: We talked a bit about the grey nomad market yesterday on the Savannah Way.

CHAIR: That is right. But we are thinking about specifically for this area. We will put that to the Townsville Enterprise.

Senator DODSON: This is not so much about the grey nomads. We had a submission the other day from the shire of Cooktown. I think it is the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook's being stranded there, or whatever happened to him.

CHAIR: Shipwrecked.

Senator DODSON: Shipwrecked. He was there for 47 days, they say. Given that one of your companies is James Cook Tours, has there been any connection between that event in Cooktown and your tours?

Mr Briggs : No. We do not operate at this point that far up the coast. Those operations are based in Perth and Sydney.

Senator DODSON: Okay. It may be useful to promote it.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It is a good point, actually. Captain Cook came past this area as well 250 years ago and named Magnetic Island.

Mr SNOWDON: I want to ask another very quick question. Firstly, I want to say that the product development hierarchy that you have in the submission seems to be a very smart one. We have not heard anything about military history tours. Is there any discussion here around military history and tours of this region around military history?

Mr Briggs : There is a business here in Townsville that is focussed on providing military tours. Certainly there is a very rich history on Magnetic Island around the Forts Walk, which is one of the walks that is heavily promoted for the gunning placements installed in 1943. One of the tour products that we are considering, particularly with the grey ships and the cruise ship industry, takes in the military history of Townsville and Magnetic Island. It is a bit of a challenging space to be able to deliver that, but it is certainly something that is of significant interest to us.

Mr SNOWDON: So what are the challenges?

Mr Briggs : More being able to handle the volume. When those ships come into town, you need to be able to absorb quite significant numbers. We have been looking at whether there is a creative way to provide a menu of tour product to be able to absorb more. Cairns can absorb 300 passengers and take them to the reef. We are trying to provide a smaller suite of products that absorbs those sorts of figures.

Mr SNOWDON: The reason I ask the question is more general, perhaps. Darwin promotes itself as a military town, which it is. It also spends a lot of time investing in the military history of the place. I am wondering if the same happens here, given the importance of Townsville during the Second World War in particular. I am interested to know.

Mr Briggs : I would commend the committee perhaps speaks with the gentleman in Townsville that runs that. I can provide the details. He would probably be best placed to answer some of the questions in relation to that.

Mr SNOWDON: Is there a military museum of any great description here?

Mr Briggs : Certainly the investment at Kissing Point has been probably the most significant development of infrastructure that tells particularly the battle of the Coral Sea. It has been a fantastic bookend to the Strand. Certainly it gets a lot of patronage, but more can be leveraged from that opportunity.

Mr SNOWDON: Thank you.

CHAIR: We are going to wind up. We have to wind up there. It is a little over time. Thank you very much. It has been very useful. If we could ask you to put together something on the concept you suggested regarding a central coordinating agency for tourism, I would be very interested in your thoughts. Clearly, from where we have been so far, there is a need for that level of coordination, I think, within the tourism area.

Senator DODSON: As part of that, there could be some reference to enhancing Indigenous participation in that tourism industry from the northern development point of view.

CHAIR: It is a critical part. One of our main benchmarks, if you like, is Indigenous participation in the Northern Australia white paper. It is also critical to developing tourism product right throughout the region. Of all the people who are looking at coming here, a lot of them are hoping or expecting to see that.

Mr Briggs : Correct.

CHAIR: That is an interesting point. Thank you very much indeed for your time. We have a timeframe here. We generally use 21 July. If you require any additional time to give us something more specific on that, we will certainly accept it. If we have any other questions on that, we will send them back to you through the secretariat.

Mr Briggs : Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you for your time. It has been very useful.