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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12816

Mr LAWLER —My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Can the minister outline how the government is supporting the Australian Year of the Outback in 2002?

Mr ANDERSON (Deputy Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question and I recognise that he, like some other members of this House, represents a pretty big slab of the outback. The Australian outback is to us what the Highlands are to Scotland. It is one of the last great frontiers in the world today, a huge area indeed, with a population of probably only around 180,000 people. But it does, of course, contain much of the country about which Australian legends have been made. The government supports moves to declare the year 2002 Year of the Outback in this country. Those suggestions originally came from a Queenslander, Mr Bruce Campbell. They have now received strong support from governments right around Australia, which I am delighted about. The year will see a major celebration of outback history, culture and achievements. For many people around the world today, their very imagery of Australia is formed by the outback. I think the tourism potential alone must be absolutely enormous.

We are told that some 80 per cent of tourists who come to Australia do so to a greater or lesser degree because they want to see something of rural and regional Australia, and yet less than 20 per cent actually ever get there, so there is a huge untapped international market in the area of tourism. Even domestically, I am told that—and the figure amazes me—over six million Australians spent all 365 days and nights at home last year; they did not leave home. Again, we could entice some of those people to go and look at our marvellous backyard. Jackie Kelly, the Minister for Sport and Tourism, is a very keen promoter of this idea as well. There is a tremendous amount that can be achieved.

The year will be promoted through events such as shows in capital cities, music festivals, art shows, special awards, perhaps a last great cattle drive of the sort that so many Australian legends were built on, and a series of other community events in regional Australia. In the first instance, we are funding a comprehensive business plan covering all facets of the year, including administration, marketing, event coordination and financing. We will be looking to see that this is a true partnership between governments, business and outback communities.