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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 4374

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:51): I present the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia on opportunities and methods for stimulating tourism in northern Australia, together with minutes of the proceedings, and I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia conducted a very wide-ranging and extensive inquiry into tourism in northern Australia. The committee made a number of recommendations, some 33 in all, about how tourism in northern Australia could be enhanced and made more accessible, and, importantly, how some of the fabulous tourist destinations in the north—some not quite so well known—could be better promoted around Australia and, indeed, around the world. I particularly note Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, two of Australia's external territories. It's a bit expensive to get there, but, if tourists can get there, it is a wonderful experience. There is some unique scenery. There are some unique ecosystems. There are some unique features across the board.

The committee met in many places around Australia, and was, again, so impressed by the wealth of experiences and natural beauty we have in this country. I particularly mention—and there are a number of recommendations about it—the Great Barrier Reef, which I think is Australia's finest tourist destination. Whilst you have the Greens political party and some others trying to denigrate the reef, telling the world—lyingly, I might say—that the reef is dead, the committee, and anyone who goes to the Barrier Reef, understands that it is one of the most magnificent natural assets in the world. Like any asset, it requires management, and it is being well-managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and by the scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and elsewhere. It is a magnificent experience to dive on it, to see it, to appreciate it, to be part of it. It is just a fantastic experience. The committee, and everyone who lives up that way, are very well aware of its beauty and the ability of the reef to regenerate, to look after itself and to provide a wonderful destination for tourists from around Australia and, indeed, around the world.

The 33 recommendations of the committee are there to be read in this report. There is a lot of information in the report about the subjects of the recommendations and why the committee came to the recommendations that it did. There are wonderful experiences and real opportunity for what I'd loosely call 'Indigenous tourism'. There are Indigenous tourism champions, and the committee made some recommendations about that. Indigenous activities, Indigenous experiences, and their art—their cultures broadly—are increasingly of interest, particularly to overseas tourists.

The report makes recommendations about funding tourism demand programs, continuing on selected airport upgrades, which are very, very important, and continuing on selected seaport upgrades, which are a real issue that needs to be addressed, with cabotage, particularly in the Indian Ocean territories. The committee widely looked at other things, like incentives to use some tourist sites in northern Australia as the backgrounds for film and TV programs. There's a call for the City Deals program to be extended to other cities in the north. When I say 'other', that is in addition to Townsville, which was the first place where the Commonwealth government's City Deals program was initiated. The recommendations call for that to be extended into Cairns and Darwin, to name two.

The committee looked at the good work that Parks Australia does and that of their state and territory counterparts. The committee recommended that those parks bodies establish an agreed and consistent regulatory approach to the consideration of investment in national parks, including public-private partnerships. Very often, our national parks are magnificent but need a little bit of sensitive infrastructure. Very often, the relevant parks authorities don't have the money to do that. There are real opportunities for public-private partnerships so that all Australians—indeed, tourists everywhere—can get in and experience the wonderful scenery in some of our national parks.

Across the board, this is a very thorough study into tourism in the north of Australia, an area that isn't front of mind when you talk about tourism—apart, that is, from the Barrier Reef. There are so many unique and wonderful experiences that tourists can have in northern Australia. This report mentions most of them and makes recommendations for how those experiences can have access to them improved and, in cases, how we can better publicise some of these wonderful experiences that are available. I commend the report to the Senate.