Topics: Funding announcement for Port Adelaide Football Club’s AFL premiership game in Shanghai; latest international tourism stats for Australia.

Simon Birmingham: Great to be here today with David Koch the chairman of the Port Adelaide Football Club, to announce the three-year support that the Australian Government’s going to provide to the Port Adelaide versus St Kilda footy match taking place in Shanghai. Port has been an incredible pioneer in taking AFL footy to the world. But in doing so, providing an opportunity to showcase Australia, Australian sport, culture, talent, and expertise in China. China is such an incredibly important country to Australia. Our trading relationship is the biggest of all our trading relationships, our tourism growth has been growing faster and at record levels, than with any other country. And we want to sustain that relationship, and we understand that the best way to do so is through strong people-to-people and cultural ties. This event over the next few years, sorry this year on June the 2nd is going to be the culmination of a two week festival of Australia in China. Around 40 events across about 10 Chinese cities will highlight Australian food, wine, produce, skills, technology, talent, expertise, all of it then leading towards a great big festival built around the Port v Saints match in Shanghai. This is a great opportunity for us to use the talent of the AFL, the expertise of these footy clubs, and to further leverage the trading relationship, tourism relationship, and to grow understanding between Australia and China.


Austrade’s partnership with Port Adelaide footy club for this event will be in the order of two hundred fifteen thousand dollars of sponsorship this year, and over the course of the three year committment that Port, St Kilda and the AFL have made to doing so. We’re excited about the opportunity that a three year commitment provides, to really build this festival and the concept over the long haul. It gives certainty towards those businesses who want to partner around this event, that they can do so, they can plan with confidence and they can ensure that their associated events highlighting the many goods, services, and products that we sell in China, get the maximum benefit out of this event and all of the other and ancillary events and associated events that will be running alongside it. So, it’s exciting day not just the footy, but trade, for tourism, to make sure we get the best out of this partnership in the future. Port v. Saints in Shanghai, a real leverage point for our trade and tourism relationship with China for the next few years. Kochie thanks very much for your leadership in this venture and for the support from the club, and from the AFL and as the new partner from St Kilda. I was thrilled to be there in Shanghai late last year as we launched the program and I really look forward to seeing the benefits of it realised over the next few years. Over to you mate.


David Koch: Thank you Minister Birmingham and can I from a Club point of view, and also from the Port Adelaide AFL joint venture point of view really thank you for this show of support. What we’re trying to do in China to use football, to use sports diplomacy, as a way of building cultural ties and also business and trade ties between Australia and China. It is so important for us going forward, China is our biggest customer, they account for a third of Australia’s exports. And we’re so linked in terms of history, but now trade and culture going forward and hopefully our intention has always been using sport to build a bridge between between China and Australia. We might be a bit different culturally but you put a Port Adelaide scarf on somebody and they are no longer of Chinese heritage, or Australian heritage, or indigenous heritage, you are basically a football supporter. Using football to bring people together, we see as our dream going forward. This is our third year in China, our third year playing a game there. Remember we are the only Western sporting club in the world to play a game in mainland China as part of a domestic competition. No other sport in the world has done it and it’s through the joint venture between Port and the AFL that has made it happen and to have the commitment which is so important for us, so important and in the eyes of the Chinese and the Chinese authorities and Chinese business, to have the support of the Australian Government for the next three years is just an enormous (indistinct) for us to keep developing our plans. Also, the Victorian Government has committed for three years, the South Australian Government has done exactly the same and Mr Gui who is one of our principal Chinese sponsors has committed to the game for another five years. It brings certainty, it brings, it is a sign of respect and a sign of trust to our Chinese business supporters and also political supporters as well. So, we’re in a pretty privileged position and have great support from not only our own government, but also the Chinese government as well. So, from us a very big thank you for that show of confidence for the medium to long term future as well.


Journalist: How is the game of AFL being received in China?


David Koch: It’s being received, I am, tongue in cheek, because a lot of people probably unfairly dismiss Port Adelaide as not having much of a cultural background but I I like to say Port Adelaide is to Australia what the Bolshoi is to Russia. Instead of using (indistinct) culturally using sport to build a bridge, and look brand Australia is incredibly powerful in China. What Australia stands for is healthy living, great food, a wonderful lifestyle. Australia is an aspirational country for most Chinese, that’s why they love our product. AFL is seen as being our indigenous game, something uniquely Australian, a bit like when we go to America you want to go to an NBA game because that’s part of their culture or or a major league baseball game. AFL is really starting to adopt that in terms of Chinese consumers.


Journalist: From previous years what changes need to be made to make sure this partnership is more successful than before?


David Koch: I’ve always dreamt that this game would be, is all about trade and is all about cultural exchange and one of the things that has lagged a little bit is support from Australian corporates. Chinese corporates and business people have loved what we’re doing and frankly have driven the commercial support for the game. So, the vote of confidence from the Federal Government is an enormous message to Australian businesses to say, hey this is seen as a really important event in terms of building ties between Australia and China. So, for example Rio Tinto has come on as a major supporter of us going forward. Santos are a supporter of us going forward, Australia Post the same. So the fact that corporate Australia is saying this is an important event to be part of and the fact that now the festival of Australia really reinforces that, and it’s not just about Shanghai it’s about ten (indistinct). And that’s the thing we’ve learned, we’ve learned a lot about China, we made a lot of mistakes, we made them cheaply and changed quickly but it’s just learning about the potential of China which is absolutely enormous and the size of the country, and the size of the market is extraordinary for any Australian business. So, if we can help build a link and build networks both ways, we think we’re doing our job.


Simon Birmingham: And I think that’s a key thing, the three year commitment allows business and industry to be able to plan, and that’s essential in terms of getting greater leverage out of this, and building the two week festival leading up to the match is all about giving our trade, our exporters, our tourism sector, all of them the ability to be able to integrate and build around this match. The game itself, like any footy match is a great spectacle of sport but what we want is to ensure that it’s a big festival over two weeks, celebrating Australian culture, Australian exports, Australian tourism, and all of those brand values that align so well between footy and all of the things that Australia sells to China in the world.


Journalist: Does having a Victorian club like St Kilda now provide opportunities with the Victorian Government that weren’t there when you were partnered with the Gold Coast?


David Koch: It certainly reinforces the importance of the game for Victoria. The Victorian Government has been, even though a Victorian team hasn’t been playing the last two years, have been incredibly supportive. They’ve had huge political and trade delegations in Shanghai around the game because they’ve understood that using the game to build ties, build networks, develop trade has been, the potential, has been incredible, and using footy to do it. So, the fact that we’re now playing a Victorian team really reinforces that, and lifts the intensity and focus to another level back home here in Australia and that’s been really important for us.


Journalist: Kochie can we get your thoughts on Eddie McGuire’s comments about the coin toss, should he have said that?


David Koch: It really has nothing to do with me. Eddie has apologised and it was an unfortunate comment, he knows it and he’s done everything to rectify it. So, I think that’s the main thing.


Journalist: Minister Birmingham, can I just ask you will there be much money dedicated to tourism campaigns in next weeks’ budget?


Simon Birmingham: We already have a record level of investment in our tourism campaigns, we’re committed to maintain that record level of marketing because it’s essential for us to keep growing our already booming tourism industry. We’ve just released the latest international visitor statistics and they show that we have hundreds of additional jumbo plane full international tourists coming to Australia over the last 12 months. That our campaigns such as the Dundee campaign in the US, the Australia unlimited campaign running in parts of Asia, they’re all driving positive results in terms of growth out of those key markets and we’re committed to keep doing so. Through the course of this year already, we have announced two big step ups in terms of marketing programs in China that align to this commitment here about how we best continue to grow the Chinese tourism market, and we will make sure that in this year’s budget and ongoing that record investment continues.


Journalist: Just how important is the tourism dollar to our economy?


Simon Birmingham: Tourism sustains jobs in every small regional country town across Australia as well as our big cities. Tourism is a great industry because it is such a huge employer, restaurants, pubs, hotels, accommodation venues, attractions and major sporting events like this one. So we cannot understate the importance of tourism economy not just to the iconic spots like the Great Barrier Reef or Sydney, but right across the length and breadth of Australia. One of the really encouraging things we have seen is the diversification of tourism spending across Australia where around 40 cents in every dollar is now spent in regional Australia, and that’s so critical to economies like Tasmania’s, South Australia’s or many others.