Thanks very much for being here today, it’s a very, very important day for tourism. I welcome our Minister here, Simon Birmingham, our tourism Minister here, it is great to have our Douglas Shire Mayor, Julia Leu, Wendy’s here, Wendy Morris, is here of course is the Chair of TDNQ and of course the brainchild of the Wangetti Trail, Glen Jacob and we are here today to announce a $8 million commitment to building the Wangetti Trail. We welcome the $5.7 million which was to take it to the Mowbray. This now actually puts the sticky feet, feet if you like on a sticky paper to build the trail in its entirety.
Now while we know that there’s been an extension from the original proposal of 70 odd kms to 90 odd, so there will be a variation required. This actually will get the job started, well and truly started and in doing so, work out exactly what else is required to complete it and so this makes sure that what we have here is something that sandwiched really, right between two world heritage areas, become a reality and capitalising on a new industry in relation to trail experiences that will be one of the world class experiences. People will travel from all over the world to be here, there’s no question about that. I’d like to now hand over to Minister Birmingham who I’m sure has got some insights that he can share.
Thanks, thanks so much Entshcy. It’s great to be here today and to be committing to $8 million of Federal tourism funding for the Wangetti Trail this is coming out of the tourism icons program that our Government established in the Budget last year. It’s a $50 million program, $8 million out of that $50 million is coming here to North Queensland to back the upgrade of this trail as one of the tourism icons of Australia.
This region is iconic, the world over, because of the exquisite marine based experiences, because of the tropics and we want to make it easier for tourists to be able to experience, in an authentic way, the nature, the wildlife, the Indigenous experiences that are on offer as part of this trail. We will upgrade the walking facilities, the interpretive facilities, provide of course for a much better experience for visitors and from that we trust we will get more people coming and more people staying longer because the richer and more diverse the experiences people have when they are up here in North Queensland, the longer they’ll stay, the more they’ll spend, the more that injects into local business and the more jobs that secures for the future.
Minister, obviously we have seen a bit of [inaudible] with China Southern and Cathay Pacific more recently, what more can be done from a Federal Government perspective to ensure that we are getting more flights into our city?
I share Warren’s concerns in relation to what’s happening with some of the airline decisions there. Warren has been on the phone to me on a nearly daily basis about some of these issues. We’ve been working with Kate Jones and the state Government to ensure that a unified pitch is put together in terms of talking to the airlines about these decisions, seeing if we can get them revisited seeing how we can restore flight capacity in other ways.
I know that over the course of the weekend there will be joint discussions involving Tourism Australia, Tourism Queensland at the airport and local tourism authorities to assess how best to address this, to overcome it, and to make sure that airline capacity into Cairns remains as strong as it possibly can because we know how critical that is to ensuring visiting numbers in the region.
Cathay Pacific was also a fairly big export carrier, how much would [inaudible] capacity for our region?
Well I am the Trade Minister as well as the Tourism Minister and so in ensuring that we have seats to be able to get tourists to the region and bellies underneath the plane to be able to get seafood and produce out of the region is critically important and we are going to be unrelenting in our efforts to make sure that working cooperatively. This is beyond party politics, we make sure that Federal, State governments work together to get the best possible outcome in terms of air access in and out of Cairns.
Can I also say that while Cathay, while they made a decision without consulting any of the Government, airports or industry, they have also indicated that the door is not shut, not locked and the reality is that October is the date they have suggested that they would leave and they have been willingly involved in the discussions, the Minister, State and Federal and other parties, airports [inaudible] as well.
So let’s not make an assumption that it is fait accompli, this is why – all of industry, we realise the ramifications of it and this is why industry and Government are working collectively on it and also councils are also very – this affects our whole region, we recognise that, we’re working with it and I’ll just say thank you to Cathay, unlocking the door and just leaving it ajar [inaudible].
Yesterday we had a quite a revelation from the Labor Party that they are contemplating and are open to the abolition of the private health insurance rebate. This is a concern to 11 million Australians who rely on the private health rebate to help them fund their health insurance, but it should be a concern to every Australian because those 11 million Australians mean there’s less pressure on public hospitals, less pressure on the public health system. Now Mr Shorten needs to come clean today as to whether a Labor government would abolish the private health insurance rebate or he should rule it out, rule it out completely. The Liberal-National Party is firm and resolute, in our support for the private health insurance rebate, in our support for 11 million Australian families, retirees and others who do their bit, pay their fees, ease the pressure of public hospitals. Mr Shorten ought to be clear and upfront in relation to this real threat that would simply put greater pressure on our public hospitals, greater pressure on family budgets and retiree budgets around Australia and is a real surprise in this campaign that Labor have kept under wraps, but it became exposed yesterday. Why is it that the Labor Party are leaving the door open to abolish to the private health insurance rebate, why won’t Mr Shorten rule it out? What would the consequences be? We know more pressure on public hospitals, more pressure on family budgets, more pressure on retiree budgets as there’s less support for private health insurance.