Address to industry and tourism lunch with Luke Howarth, Queensland

17 MAY 2016

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. SENATOR RICHARD COLBECK,

MINISTER FOR TOURISM AND INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION

ADDRESS TO INDUSTRY AND TOURISM LUNCH WITH LUKE HOWARTH

REDCLIFFE, QUEENSLAND

EO&E..........................................................................................................................................

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Thanks very much, Luke. It's a real pleasure to be here on what happily turns out to be a very special day, so congratulations Shane on your announcement today and the achievement that you've been able to manage in what is a relatively short period of time.

I travel around the country a bit in this role as you might imagine, particularly tourism, there are opportunities for me to look at tourism assets around this country almost anywhere I travel and plenty of requests to go and talk to various organisations.

To see a region that is working as cohesively as you are here, to hear that you are not just waiting for someone else to come and help you do it, you're actually getting in and working cohesively together, and investing yourselves too importantly which should be acknowledged, and then developing a relationship with local government in the region which I'm sure will facilitate some recognition at a state level is really good. So congratulations to MBRIT and fantastic that you've had that result at council this morning - it's really good.

Michael can I thank you for your welcome to country and for telling us your story - it's really important. I notice that the advertisement that you were playing here before about this region was about telling a story and the more we tell each other stories and the more we listen to each other's stories, particularly in the context of the relationship with our indigenous communities, the better we'll know each other and the better we'll get along. So Michael, thank you for the story - I really appreciate it.

I had in my suitcase a message stick that I was given down the South-West of Western Australia when I was there earlier in the year and I have another one at home that comes from up in Arnhem Land - and I was told that if I carried it and showed it when I went into various communities around the country that could be my passport into those places.

We have an enormous opportunity, I think, in this country to continue to build and develop the relationship but also our indigenous tourism offering, so it sounds as though you're very much into that, so congratulations. Particular thanks for your welcome to country but also telling us a story; it's an important part of what we do.

I've had to re-jig what I was going to say today because the discussion around international education and international education sort of added to my opportunity to talk to you here today. Tourism, obviously, is important and has been identified as one of the five super-growth sectors of the Australian economy but so has international education which is the other part of my portfolio.

It was only two weeks ago that I launched, as Australia's first ever Minister for International Education, Australia's first ever National Strategy for International Education and it's been very interesting to see how that's been received here in Australia but also internationally.

I saw a review with some comments from the committee that looks after education in the UK Parliament last week saying that our Strategy has put us well ahead of where they are. We're looking strategically at the next decade as a country, how we might interact with our international market which is projected to grow at about 3.8 per cent per annum so, again, ahead of the rest of the economy.

So the work that's being done here on increasing accessibility to education is very, very important. Based around some of the achievements of Luke as the local member with the rail, the work that he's doing - he's said he's been on to Malcolm about getting some additional funds up here for resources for infrastructure. A lot of local members are talkers but I can tell you you've got a doer up here. The fact that he's had me here three times in three years - I thought you'd been the local member longer Luke!

(laughter)

There's real opportunity for this region to develop not only an educational offering but an international education offering with that significant proposal for the development of the campus here.

That also has a play towards tourism because we know that there's over two visits per student per year who are here in Australia for an education experience, and of course that interaction with those students who come here for an education, it's not just the fact that they're here for two, three, four years or for 12 months for a course, it becomes a lifelong connection, sometimes a generational connection.

We still reap the benefits of the Colombo Plan that started in the 1950s. There are a number of key members of parliament, ministers, industry leaders in the South East Asian region who came here for an education.

The opportunity to sit down with them and have a conversation that is always very easy to start because you have the fact that they've been here for an education as the commencement point of that conversation; so you have a link. But then they look to investment here, they also look to send their kids here and the number of students who come here because the mum and dad had an education here is quite significant. So it becomes a generational relationship, and linkage, and I think that's really important and its one of the ways that we can continue to maintain our relationships.

We're reaping the dividends of that policy that occurred in the 1950s, 60s and 70s even today. And the New Colombo Plan, which is Julie Bishop's baby but also one of the key relationship building exercises of this government - we will reap the benefits of that for decades to come.

By the end of this year there will have been 10,000 Australian students sent out into the Asian region for an international education experience and that will develop the relationships, it will develop business opportunities and linkages that, as I said, we'll reap the dividends from for a long period of time to come.

So it's really quite exciting to hear about your proactive activity here in this region; not only providing an important accessibility measure in tertiary institutions in your local region, but also the opportunity to participate in a growing sector in the Australian economy. So two of the five you've got here as important parts of your local economy.

When I was talking to Shane earlier he told me 8.5 per cent of the economy here is tourism and that's pretty high; in a national sense it's only about 3 per cent of GDP. But there were a lot of similarities cast between Tassie and this region earlier in the day - Tasmania relies on tourism for about 9 per cent of its GDP so it's a really important part of the economy.

Fortunately for Tassie at the moment, and for the rest of the country, tourism is doing extremely well and there are really strong projections for the future, as I said, projected to grow at 4.1 per cent per annum over the next decade and a lot of that will be driven by the growth out of China. So 120 million Chinese took an overseas holiday last year and that's projected to be 200 million by 2020.

So the work that's being done here, investing in local product, the investment that Luke's driving in Canberra around local infrastructure, really becomes an important part of that. The connectivity that is coming from federal government activity is really quite important.

One of the things that I believe has been a part of that rapid growth in tourism out of China is the success of Andrew Robb, as our Trade and Investment Minister, in negotiating the free trade agreement with China. Not long after we completed that agreement last year the Chinese came to us and said we'd like to have a chat to you about airline access and what that did is open up a whole range of what they call secondary cities and airports to provide them with access to Australia. They very tightly control their tourism opportunities for people to leave, even though there were 120 million of them that did, it's still quite tightly controlled.

So them opening up all of those secondary airports opens up the opportunity for new airlines to fly in here and obviously new sources of tourists who want to come to Australia and, increasingly, you'll be seeing in your own markets here, more free and independent travellers. So they're not travelling on tour groups as much as they used to but more and more of them are coming out as free and independent travellers and they are very high yielding.

That, I think, is one of the elements that's put Australia in a circumstance where we, for the first time, have ticked off the bottom end of our targets to get to between $115 and $140 billion in overnight expenditure by 2020.

We need to continue to drive that, obviously, but the good thing is that tourism numbers, despite some of the other indicators, continue to be strong out of some of our traditional markets - the United States, Europe, Japan, those sorts of countries. They continue to grow as well and so does the yield that's coming out of those.

Now I know the dollar is assisting in that to a certain extent and talking to the Americans about that when I was there in February, the Americans are only thinking about the American dollar and if they've got a dollar to spend they spend it. They don't worry about exchange rates and, in fact, I think Australia, or the evidence that I've had, is that Australians worry more about exchange rates that a lot of other countries do because you hear the exchange rate reports every day and we measure everything against it. But to the Americans a buck is a buck and if they have a buck to spend, they'll spend it, and if they get more value out of it, good. So at the moment the yield out of the United State is quite strong as well, so a lot of opportunity in that space as well.

So what are we looking to do to ensure that we maintain Australia as a strong tourism destination and as a strong international education destination? So, firstly, in tourism, a few innovations. We're looking very closely and watching very closely what we're doing with our visa classifications and we announced last year that we would develop a 10 year multi-entry visa for the Chinese market and we would provide, for the first time, online application capacity in Mandarin. That makes a real difference and is being watched very closely in China. It's not finalised yet but we're looking to have that rolled out by the end of this year.

When I was in Indonesia last November with Andrew Robb and Peter Dutton, we announced a three year multi-entry visa for that market which was very enthusiastically received. I was at a Tourism Australia event in Adelaide about three or four weeks after coming from Indonesia and I was mobbed by a group of tourism people from Indonesia who raced up to me and said, we're very excited about the new visa, our bosses have told us to go and sell Australia and to sell more tourists to Australia on the back of that visa. They were saying that they wanted to double the number of tourists that they sent to Australia on the back of that one initiative.

Indonesia, I have to say, are being very innovative with what they're doing around their visa settings and they're not the only country. So we need to make sure that we maintain a really close eye on what's happening in those settings internationally because it is a bit of a race to see who has the most flexible and seamless method of entry into their country.

What we don't want is a tourist, or potential tourist, to get to a particular point in the decision making process and say that's too hard, I'll go somewhere else instead. So we need to keep a close eye on that and that's what we will do.

Obviously, what we're doing with our marketing, and something that you are perfectly positioned for, is marketing our coastal and aquatic attractions or assets. So in January of this year in New York Julie Bishop had the real hardship posting of standing next to Chris Hemsworth and launching our Coastal and Aquatic Campaign which is marketing to one of our natural strengths. We are recognised internationally as having a very, very high quality and standard of offering around our aquatic and coastal assets.

It builds on the back of our Restaurant Australia Campaign which started a couple of years ago which was about dealing with the perception gap where people, before they arrived, didn't have the level of expectation about the quality of our food and beverage offering - but they did after they'd been here to experience it.

That campaign, our Restaurant Australia campaign, actually lifted that perception from being ranked 10th in the world to 6th in the world, so the marketing which we measure has been demonstrated to have an effect and that plays into our visitation rates. So it's really important that we get that right.

I was able to participate in the launch of our Coastal and Aquatic Campaign in China a few weeks ago at Business Week and it was quite an event, but very well received in the Chinese market - so an important part of what we're doing.

Of course in international education, as I mentioned before, we launched our International Education Strategy a few weeks ago and we have a marketing plan that sits alongside that that looks at how we market our education offering out to 2025, bearing in mind that we currently sit third in the world behind the US and the UK in numbers for international education.

One of the other things that we did is also launched, with Minister Julie Bishop, our Global Alumni Strategy. We have this huge alumni group out there that we don't interact with as much as we could and they are fantastic ambassadors for Australian education and what it can provide. So we want to work with them, we want to make sure they are, where they can, advocating for the Australian education sector and then we can build those two things to continue to build our visitor economy.

There will, obviously, be other marketing process that come along down the line as a part of that broader marketing campaign and the theme that sits above all of that is 'There's Nothing Like Australia' - and I think that's something that we can all very comfortably say wherever we go internationally.

Of course we need to make sure that we continue to develop the strength of the Australian visitor economy, bearing in mind that about 75 per cent of the visitor market within Australia is local tourism - you coming to visit us in Tassie and us, in the middle of winter like it is in Tassie at the moment, coming up here to visit you. So why is the Tasmanian Senator up here in Queensland today - it was very stormy in Tassie last night let me tell you. Not a surprise.

(laughter)

So I think this sector, tourism and international education, has a really strong and positive future. You have, in your local member Luke Howarth, a terrific advocate, not someone who just talks about things but someone who actually does something.

Both of us would like to have the opportunity to come back and continue to work on your behalf after the 2nd of June. He has to win his seat and I'm a marginal seat holder too which is an unusual thing for a Senator to say, but I am. I need to win my seat and we as a government need to win the election, and if we both do win our seats I think we as a government will win the election and have the opportunity to come back and continue the work we've started.

Can I thank you again for the invitation to be here - a great opportunity. Please send Luke back to Canberra after the 2nd of July - I'd love to be able to sit down next to him in the party room and him congratulate me, and me congratulate him.

He is an asset for you in Canberra so do everything that you can, tell your friends, we want Luke back. Thank you.

(ends)

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