Topics: 2019 Australian Tourism Exchange; funding for Rottnest Island.

Premier McGowan Today marks the launch of the Australian Tourism Exchange here in Perth. This is a massive tourism event designed to bring in the tourism industry from around Australia and around the world, and designed to showcase Perth and Western Australia to the world. What we have here is thousands of delegates who are having a look at Perth and having a look at the regions and seeing what we have to offer. And we expect this will result in promotional opportunities and tourists from around Australia and around the world increasingly coming to Western Australia. We’ve seen a significant increase in our international tourists, our interstate tourists over the course of the last year and this event will help to promote Perth and Western Australia to the world. One of the things we’re very pleased about this event is the familiarisation tours for the delegates out to the regions so we can showcase our beautiful regions to the delegates and they then go and sell those opportunities to tourists around Australia and around the world. So major companies like Thomas Cook, STA Travel and Flight Centre all have representatives here as well as numerous other delegates from around Australia and around the world. So this is a very very exciting development and great for tourism. We are pleased to be able to sponsor of this. It brings in big money. So on top of that it helps promote. The second thing is today we’ve announced $16.2 million dollars for upgrades to Rottnest Island. These will be around the main jetties and ensuring that the barge landing of all the supplies and the like are moved from the main jetty over to the army jetty.


 So whilst this is a large commitment, the largest commitment to the island by a State Government in many years, it’s designed to ensure that the aging infrastructures improve and we get some of the supply functions out of the main area and over to the army jetty and away from where the tourists all land. And this will improve safety, improve supply, improve the image, and make sure that Rottnest is far more functional. There will also be some upgrades to the fuel jetty, of course the island needs fuel as we know. Rottnest has gone from strength to strength under my government, huge increases in tourists, huge increases in promotion and this investment will help secure Rottnest’s future and help attract tourists to Rottness both from Perth, Western Australia, interstate, and overseas. So this investment is all about ensuring that Rottnest continues to attract tourists from interstate and overseas and make sure Rottnest continues to function very effectively. So, this is one of the commitments we’re making in the State Budget to be handed down next month. I’ll hand over to Minister Birmingham to say a few words.


Simon Birmingham Thanks Premier, it’s great to be here at the Australian Tourism Exchange with Premier, Minister, Paul and of course with all of the delegates here who are going to have such a big impact in Perth this week but across the Australian tourism industry for the years to come. The Australian Tourism Exchange brings thousands of delegates, thousands of tourism industry professionals who are responsible for millions of international visitors to Australia, who spend billions of dollars across our economy. And that’s the formula that is going to keep us strong into the future. We already welcome more than nine million international visitors to Australia each and every year and we want to see that continue to grow with high value, high spending tourists, because the more people who come, the more jobs there are in our restaurants, our bars, our hotels and attractions right across Australia. It’s a real thrill to have ATE back here in Perth at a time when the WA tourism industry is looking good. We’ve seen some small positive growth in international visitation over the last 12 months, strong growth in domestic visitation and all of that bodes really well for the future. And we’re using that growth to really now leverage the future. Our government, the Morrison Government out of Canberra is pleased to announce $17.2 million in investment for Rottnest Island. This is about backing an iconic tourism attraction in Rottnest Island with better, more sustainable tourism facilities into the future. 770,000 people visited Rottnest last year and with that sort of growth in tourism numbers come strains and pressures, so we’re investing to back better jetties, better wharves, better walking trails, and a better museum for the future to ensure that every visitor has a world-class experience on Rottnest. But also that we protect the environment, highlight the indigenous culture and heritage and ensure the long-term sustainability of tourism to Rottnest Island. The better the experience that visitors have on Rottnest, the more international visitors we will get to Perth, the more we will get people dispersing out to other regions across WA. Ultimately this is about maintaining the strength of the Australian economy and the Western Australian economy. Our government, the Morrison Liberal Government in Canberra, investing in our tourism industry to make sure that we invest in WA’s future, a strong economy more jobs more growth for small businesses, that’s what this type of investment is about, both the Australian Tourism Exchange and the upgrades to Rottnest Island.


Paul Papalia Look it’s a wonderful day to be welcoming the Australian Tourism Exchange here in Perth. The last time we had it was 2012 when Western Australia had the most expensive hotels in the country, and the most expensive coffee in the world. That’s all changed, we’ve got the most affordable and quality hotels anywhere in the country, if not the world and it’s a brilliant time to be selling Western Australia to the world as a destination. The ATE will provide us with the opportunity to show the people who sell our product around the world and around the rest of Australia, just how much things have changed, just how much this is an attractive destination. It’s a fantastic opportunity and we’ve got perfect weather. The investment in Rottnest by the Federal Government and the State Government is going to be a fantastic contribution to kick along our constant improvement of the island. Since we took government in March 2017, there’s been a massive increase in visitation to the island. In the first year, there was an 18 percent increase in the number of visitors to the island, about 15 percent of the people that go to Rottnest are from outside the state, from international and overseas sources and that is a huge contribution it is a major drawcard. Everyone would have seen, we’ve had Roger Federer, we’ve had Margot Robbie, and more recently Chris Hemsworth and Matt Damon promoting that destination to the world, people want to come and visit. It’s a major attraction and this investment will assist in ensuring that the quality of what we have to offer is maintained and improved in the future.


Journalist Environmentally, what is going to be put in place to ensure the increased visitors and the extra infrasture doesnt (indistinct)?


Paul Papalia There’s a Rottnest Island management plan. It’s being reviewed and it will be released shortly. That is at its very core, focused on maintaining and conserving the A Class Reserve and protecting that environment because that’s part of the attraction. It is not under threat but the more people who go there, the more we’ve got to be able to provide additional and better quality facilities and thats what much of this investment is focussed on. The movement of the logistics out of Thompson’s Bay to another site enables us to have greater capacity for visitors arriving, more frequent ferry arrivals and departures and also makes the safer for people moving because there’s no things like (indistinct) travelling around in amongst the people (indistinct) . That’s really part of what we’re doing. Rottnest has always maintained, the Rottnest Island Authority are constantly investing in maintenance upgrades on the island, this just gives us a big boost and an opportunity to leap frog ahead of where we might have been otherwise.


Journalist Was upgrading the jetty made necessary by the collapse last year?


Paul Papalia No because the jetty to which you refer, is not one that was used for anything, it was redundant, it had no core purpose on the island, it was going to be removed anyway and replaced. What is happening here, and that’s already happened by the way, that happened within a couple of  months of the incident. What is happening here is beyond that, this is shifting the logistics, refurbishing the fuel jetty and enabling a much more efficient delivery of all of the goods and equipment that needs to go on the island as we grow things like the hotel, which is going to commence rebuilding in May and hopefully will be finished by next summer, the summer of 2020. That is a massive transition there’s a lot of construction work to go on they will need to move a lot more of logistics in and out of the island. 


Journalist How difficult will that be for people to go to the island in the meantime until it’s done?


Paul Papalia It’ll be fine. They’ll accommodate providing the services they currently do. What this is is an expansion, so we will end up with about 80 plus rooms there. We’ve got eighty three beds with the big discovery park eco resort, that’s recently opened. It’s just going to be an upgrade, there’ll be a couple of swimming pools, it will be more resort, high end type accommodation. All of the traditional accommodation for people on Rottnest remains, what we’re doing is adding to it.


Journalist With the Quokka selfie, thats obviously something really important for the island on the map, what are the other plans to increase tourism across the state?


Paul Papalia We have a two year action plan which we launchedin March last year and it is working. It is focused on making ourselves the western gateway for international visitors. We are trying to get new direct flights from key markets like Japan which commence from the 1st September, seven days a week, (indistinct) start flying.  We’re focused on getting one from Shanghai, the Premier was just in Shanghai talking to the President of China Eastern. We are also very very much focused on trying to get a direct flight (indistinct) that’s international market, making ourselves the western gateway so we are an entry point. Interstate wise we re-established an office on the east coast that had been shut for seven years under the previous government. We’ve run a series of continuous tactical campaigns to tell people on the east coast that we are now affordable and quality, because we accrued a bad reputation during the boom. We didn’t actually have a leisure market then, it was business travellers and people visiting business travellers. Now we are building a leisure market and I’ve got to say that is working, clearly interstate holiday makers are growing at 21.4 percent, the highest that we’ve seen in a very very long time. And international travellers, our holiday makers, it’s not a small increase, it is the highest growth rate in the country, 12.6 percent, double the national average. We are growing both international and interstate holiday makers. Our plan is working, we are also focused on next year we’ll be doubling the number of cruises that come into Western Australia because the State Government is investing in infrastructure to enable more cruise ships to operate and particularly out of Broome. We’ve made affordable flights to the regions a priority, and you would have seen seen Broome, Monkey Mia, Carnarvon, Albany, Esperance all with affordable flights, and there are more coming. That makes it easier for people to get out to the regions and of course we’ve launched the road trip campaign is going to nine countries and all over Australia, telling people about this being the best place in the world for road trips, and we are very focused on Aboriginal cultural tourism, we’re about to launch a two-year action plan for that.


Journalist Can I ask you about the museum? What’s going to be in the museum?


Paul Papalia Are you talking about the Rottnest Museum?


Paul Papalia It’s probably best we get Michelle Reynolds, the Executive Director of Rottnest to… That’s part of the federal money that is going to be used for that but the actual purposes, its just upgrading and improvement but its one of things that they put on the list as a priority. 


Simon Birmingham Interpretation obviously is always a key part of any museum upgrade so making sure that visitors when they’re exploring the Indigenous heritage, the history of the island also get the best possible interpretive experience. Modern technology, the types of things that can really lift the visitor experience.


Journalist The Federal Government money, as part of the money is being allocated as part of the tourism icon’s package, how important is it that Rottnest was named the first icon to receive money?


Paul Papalia Well that’s that’s a wonderful acknowledgment of just how important Rottnest is not just to Western Australia, but the whole nation. You heard 770,000 people visited Rottnest last year and as I said earlier 15 percent or so of those are from outside Western Australia, we will grow that.  The opportunity with Rottnest lies in growing the shoulders and the off-peak season and even in winter. Rottnest in winter is pretty attractive to some people from many parts of the world and including, I was speaking to some buyers from Singapore only on Sunday who view it as a really attractive thing to be able to come down and experience a winter they never get it, and having it on an island as unique as Rottnest is just perfect.


Journalist Are you embarrassed by all this tourism expo that we do have some red tape issues in terms of the cable car idea and staying the night at Kings Park?


Paul Papalia There is nothing that is stopping people coming from Western Australia, we have the highest growth in the nation of international holiday makers, 12.6 percent, double the national average, interstate holiday makers are growing at 21.4 percent, our plan is going well and working and we’ve managed to turn around tourism which was left in a really poor state during the boom. There was no leisure market during the boom, what we had was business travellers and people visited business people.  As a result, when we got into office we had to create a plan to address that issue and we’ve done that. We always welcome more attractions and proposals for attractions but it’s just an ongoing process. Normal  practice, we’re a first world country, you don’t just get to say you want to do something, spend some money and do it, you’ve got to protect the environment, you got to protect amenity. We have those things to protect, our state and maintaining standards. They’ll always be obligations but we encourage people to promote ideas and come up with them.


Journalist Can we ask you Premier an important question? Who do you think with win the Derby this weekend?


Premier McGowan Look I am a Dockers supporter, I am backing the Dockers. I certainly hope that they, they’ve gone well this season,  I certainly hope they win.


Journalist Do you think Nat Fyfe will play or do you want him to?


Premier McGowan Look I think Nat should should just take medical advice on what’s the best course of action for him and make sure he’s right before he plays.


Journalist Premier just on Alannah MacTiernan, were you told about the extent of her business development role (indistinct)?


Premier McGowan Look I learnt about it, I read your story this morning about it. In 2011 she had a role at a company and she which wasn’t Carnegie, Carnegie purchased that company a few years later and then the government got elected in 2017, entered into a tender process in which then, Carnegie won via an independent tender process.  I really don’t see what the issue is here. I mean she was a private citizen, she was working as a consultant for a company that wasn’t even related to Carnegie, and she ceased working for it years before Carnegie acquired that company. It’s a very strange story.


Journalist Surely you should have handed the project to another Minister?


Premier McGowan She gave up her shareholdings in a company that she had worked for, two years before it was acquired by Carnegie, and seven years before an (indistinct) 


Journalist She previously said that she wasn’t paid in cash for it, its come out now that she has, why wasn’t…? 


Premier McGowan She was asked about shareholdings, she answered honestly. She was asked about shareholdings, she answered honestly.


Journalist What is your message to vegan protestors if they are planning on any big action her in Perth?


Premier McGowan Look abide by the law, be respectful of farmers, of consumers, don’t disrupt the community. I mean I understand they have a point of view but you shouldn’t go and disrupt people going about their lawful business like farmers or restaurateurs or the like. It’s inappropriate.


Journalist Do you think their protests are peaceful?


Premier McGowan Sorry? 


Journalist Do you think their protests have been peaceful? They say their protests are peaceful.


Premier McGowan Look some of the protests I’ve seen have not been particularly peaceful. When you go and invade someone’s property and film whilst you are doing it that’s not appropriate, it’s actually unlawful. We’re examining the laws to toughen the laws around trespass and restraining orders and that’s what we’ll do. But these people just need to be respectful of people who are trying to earn a living which is what farmers and restaurateurs and the like are doing.


Journalist Premier why do five out of six of the members of the thoroughbred industry resign over the offloading of TAB? 


Premier McGowan I will let Paul do that in a minute. I do want to say one thing about it, we have worked very constructively with the racing industry on the TAB sale process and we will continue to do so and the racing industry is supportive of what we are attempting to do. We’re trying to provide a long term future for the racing industry in Western Australia and a return for the taxpayers which is exactly what we said we’d do, before we were elected and I think our process has been right, we’ve been very consultative and we’ve worked effectively with the industry but the details I will let Paul say. 


Journalist You’ve made a few new spending commitments in the past few days. Does that reflect this to people money in the budget, we are going to see a bit more cash to splash in this year’s state budget?


Premier McGowan Well we announced improvements to the intensive care unit at Royal Perth Hospital and we’re announcing some improvements to Rottnest Island and obviously we’ve secured additional support from the Commonwealth for roads and rail. So we’re going to continue to spend on  infrastructure but have a good financial management. Let me say it again, we’ll continue to spend on infrastructure, create jobs and improve services, but we still will have very very tight financial management which you will see come down in the budget. Obviously the last government (indistinct) by 40 billion dollars, had runaway spending, lost the credit rating twice. We have restored the credit rating and we also have the best financial management in Australia. So you can do all those things at once, you can walk and chew gum at the same time and that’s what we’re doing.


Journalist So it’s going to be bells and whistles sort of budget?


Premier McGowan That the budget will come down and I think it will be very good.


Journalist Minister Birmingham do you mind if I ask a similar question?


Simon Birmingham Yes.


Journalist Kind of along the same track with this funding, is this a pre-election pledge?


Simon Birmingham So the $17.2 million is part of the $50 million tourism icons project and program that we announced in the Budget last week. And I say every dollar of this funding for Rottnest Island is in the budget, is locked in and we trust that the Labor Party would agree that they would fund this as well, but that’s their business. We’re very pleased that we’ve got the support of the State Government and that together, we’re putting in of course now more than $33 million dollars to upgrade Rottnest Island and in doing that ensuring it’s environmentally sustainable, visitors have a world class experience and the indigenous culture and history of the island is appropriately highlighted.


Journalist So if you’re not re-elected will this money still go through?


Simon Birmingham That’s a question for Bill Shorten. I don’t think voters can trust Bill Shorten on terribly many things but that is, we are clear. It’s in the budget, the dollars are there. We are backing this because we want to back the diversity of the WA economy and jobs growth in Western Australia. Our government has managed to bring the budget back to balance, grow our economy, create record numbers of jobs, invest in schools and hospitals, and the way we’re going to keep doing that in the future to create more jobs, and keep taxes low is by investing in targeted economic areas of growth such as tourism, such as the Rottnest Island development. Thanks guys.