• Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Bushfires effecting tourism on Kangaroo Island.
06 January 2020

Tony Pilkington: Keeping the tourist dollars flowing while bushfire ravaged communities are really struggling is Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham’s top priority immediately and he joins us on the program right now. Minister, good morning and welcome. How are you?

Simon Birmingham: Hello Pilko. Thanks so much for the opportunity to have a chat.

Tony Pilkington: Okay. So what are the things that the government, the Federal Government can do to actually help the tourism industry? Some factors of which, especially locally here on Kangaroo Island, you’d imagine will really struggle for the next couple of years.

Simon Birmingham: Well Kangaroo Island is really of course such an impacted community when we think about the bushfires effecting tourism. Tourism is KI’s number one income earner and was worth around $126 million to the island in 2018. And speaking with Premier Steven Marshall over the last couple of days, he’s keen to emphasise that of course, not all of the island is burnt out, that there are still many attractions and that when it is safe to do so, we hope people will continue to support those businesses, those parts of the island as we all then work together to ensure that we rebuild the other tourism assets, particularly those around Flinders Chase National Park that have been burnt out and make sure that they are even better assets and better experiences for visitors into the future. Across-

Tony Pilkington: So you say it’s the tourism industry to KI is worth how much, $126 million a year?

Simon Birmingham: $126 million was estimated in 2018. And for the island, we really do have to appreciate that agriculture and tourism, alongside fisheries as part of that agricultural industry, are the main income earners and whilst there are big impacts in the Adelaide Hills, there’s also a more diverse economy that exists there. So for KI, we’ve got to really focus on how we support the rebuilding of the tourism industry and making sure that people aren’t turned away for years and that they do understand that there are still many assets and opportunities there that are going to be worth getting out and visiting in the months to come once it’s safe to do so again. And that progressively we’re going to make sure that everything comes back online and as I say, is bigger and better into the future. We’re going to make sure we work through the same sorts of processes in the Adelaide Hills and other key tourism sites for South Australia. And as the Federal Tourism Minister, I’m incredibly mindful that so many of the locations in New South Wales and Victoria are also major holiday spots, particularly for Australian travellers at this time of year, but also that internationally we’ve really got to be looking at the impact of the coverage of these bushfires on our tourism industry and how it is that we make sure that international visitors understand that right across this vast country of ours, there’s still many wonderful experiences to be had and that the worst thing that could happen for both fire affected communities and non-fire affected communities would be for visitors to not come and therefore prolong the pain hurt for those communities just as they seek to rebuild.

Tony Pilkington: Minister, we appreciate the fact that you’ve got to go in a moment. I see you’ve got a Cabinet meeting coming up. Just finally, what financial incentives could you offer to the bushfire affected communities, for example, over on KI?

Simon Birmingham: Well at Cabinet meeting we’ll absolutely be discussing the type of funding that’s going to be required for the rebuild of infrastructure, of tourism facilities, of community facilities, so we can work closely with councils and I’ve been in touch with the KI Mayor, Michael Pengilly, to talk about his understanding of what’s going to be needed on the island and we’ll do that working closely with the local communities, with the state government. It’s about everyone pulling together, and as I say, we’ll be at the Cabinet level discussing the direct financial support but also then as we look to ensure that tourists keep coming into the future, the type of work we’ve got to do in our international marketing and initiatives to make sure that we’ve got the infrastructure, the businesses, the community support but also the messaging internationally to keep the tourists coming into years to come. And as I say, to make sure the experiences, once rebuilt, are even better into the future than they’ve been, as magnificent as they have been over the last few years.

Tony Pilkington: Okay. Josh is telling me we’ve got to let you go. You’ve got a Cabinet meeting coming up. Minister, thanks for the time again this morning. No doubt we’ll talk down the track.

Simon Birmingham: Look forward to it Pilko, thank you.

Tony Pilkington: That’s the Federal Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham, of course, from here, from SA, about to go to a Cabinet meeting scheduled for about 9.30 or so.