Lara Vella: Meantime the terrifying bushfires have not only destroyed our environment, it’s also tainting Australia’s reputation with international holidaymakers. Today the Government has announced a $76 million recovery package to boost the country’s tourism industry. For more on this we’re joined this morning by Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham. Minister, good morning to you.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning Lara.
Lara Vella: How is the Government going to guarantee that this money is actually going to go to those communities, particularly say ones on the South East Coast of New South Wales that have been completely wiped out by these fires? How is the Government going to guarantee that those much needed tourism dollars are going to funnel back to those local communities?
Simon Birmingham: Well, Lara, this is a campaign for those communities but also for the entire Australian tourism industry. We’ve committed funds out of this $76 million initiative so that those fire-affected communities can be particularly, and be the only ones who get to bid to be able to get funding to put on new events, new festivals, to make new installations, be they art installations or other attractions, that can help to get people back into those communities as they rebuild. But importantly we also have funding to drive the tourism message right across Australia, and that’s critical, because what we’re seeing in our key international markets at present is a downturn in our bookings to Australia of between 30 and 40 per cent in many instances. So it’s not just those tourism businesses in fire-affected communities who are hurting. We have businesses in Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, who are reporting cancellations, reporting big downturns in bookings, and we have to make sure we get people travelling across the length and breadth of this country again as quickly as possible.
Lara Vella: I don’t think anyone can deny that tourism is fundamental to Australia. It’s the backbone in terms of our macro-economy. But do you think, Minister, that $10 million to fly people like influencers over to spruik Australia to the rest of the world, do you think that passes the pub test?
Simon Birmingham: So Lara, around one in 13 Australian jobs are dependent on the tourism and hospitality industries, and we know from the downturn in bookings and the cancellation of bookings at present that those jobs are at risk. So this initiative and this policy package is as much a job-saving package as it is a tourism industry package, and that’s the way we need to look at it. Now, the funding for international visits is overwhelmingly an education piece that will be targeted at visiting journalists, visiting media, making sure we get the story back internationally that Australia is open for business, that the vast majority of our nation is untouched by bushfires and that tourists can still come and have the same amazing experience in Australia that we’ve always prided ourselves on giving them. I don’t expect much, if any of it to go in terms of the types of celebrities that are being spoken of. It’s really about a big educational push to make sure people are well aware of the fact they can still come to Australia, stay in our properties, create jobs for Australians in doing that, and of course have a wonderful time while they’re here.
Lara Vella: All right, Minister Simon Birmingham, thank you very much for your time this morning, appreciate it.