Remarks at the 16th Annual Tourism & Transport Forum Leadership Summit

23 Nov 2016
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister


Thank you very much, Katie. It is great to be here with your CEO, Margy Osmond, the Chairman of Virgin Australia, Elizabeth Bryan, the many parliamentary colleagues including the Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister, Steven Ciobo. And of course I can see Trent Zimmerman, now the Member for North Sydney and Chairman of the Coalition Friends of Tourism but, of course, formally, the Deputy Chief Executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum - so you have basically embedded him in the Parliament as one of your own, as he suggests a mole, he is certainly not in deep cover, he is a very transparent and proud fan of the tourism and transport sector.

Can I just say too that the support for you is just so wide ranging right across the Parliament. We invariably understand the importance of your industry.

And you know, just this month, the ABS released some figures which showed that we have, for the first time, welcomed more than eight million international visitors to Australia over the last year.

That comes just 18 months after we passed seven million annual visitors. Before that, it took more than six years for visitor numbers to climb from five to six million.

These record-breaking tourism numbers have major ramifications for transport operators, given the close links between your two sectors. The rise of service industries is increasingly important as our economy makes the transition from the mining construction boom to an economy that is more diverse in every respect, geographically and sectorally.

Tourism is one of our five key super growth sectors of the next decade. A big employer of Australians, with one in 12 of us working in the sector, accounting for 9.6 per cent of our nation's exports.

The export industries like tourism have a multiplying effect on employment. We know that tourism builds personal links to our country and it encourages further trade and investment. Chinese visitors, for example, are more likely to buy Australian products and services after visiting.

When I have been down in Tasmania, which has really benefitted from the China export story, again and again I met people running, often relatively small businesses, effectively family businesses, who would say that the contract they got, the order they got - generally of a scale they would never imagine possible I might add -  the contract they had got for their wine or their food products, their honey or some wonderful delight from Tasmania, had come because Chinese tourists had visited, had sampled it and gone home and said ‘Gosh, maybe we can share this with some of our friends and customers in China’.

China is already our number one market by value and it is about to become our number one market by volume. That is no mean feat given the highly competitive nature of the market, with 190 national tourism organisations competing for international visitors.

We have recognised the vital role of Tourism Australia in attracting more visitors, providing it with record funding of $639 million. Tourism Australia's world class marketing campaigns are obviously working, as evidenced by the unprecedented surge in visitor numbers.

And China, as I note has such a significant portion of the market, will only continue to grow, particularly with President Xi Jinping and I agreeing to make 2017 the Australia-China Year of Tourism.

The potential for our $120 billion tourism industry is enormous. I want to applaud the way your sector has partnered with the Government to realise the goals of Tourism 2020.

We are on track to meet the Tourism 2020 target which aims to double overnight visitor expenditure from $70 billion in 2009 to between $115 and $140 billion by 2020.

We are working to improve the competitiveness of the Australian visa system, including by trialling 10-year multiple entry visitor visas for China. We are reducing working holiday maker visa charges and ensuring that a competitive and fiscally sustainable tax rate applies to working holiday makers from 1 January 2017.

If you have time to speak to some of your friends in the Senate, please encourage them to support the Government's legislation. It is vitally important for your industry, vitally important for Australia.

Another way that we can support your industry is by building the infrastructure that improves visitor access and experience.  Not just in two cities and within cities, but in the regions. A recent survey by the Queensland Tourism Industry Council showed almost one in four tourism operators saw a boost to their bottom lines last financial year as a result of new public infrastructure.

We will continue to provide that infrastructure that you need to grow the tourism industry in this 21st century economy.

The roll-out of the National Broadband Network, for example, will support and accelerate the services sector and the jobs it provides. Just to put a bit of context around that, when we came into Government in 2013, the NBN was an utterly failed project. About 50,000 premises had been connected after years of effort.

We are now in a position where well over a quarter of Australians can access the NBN. There are over 1.5 million activated services. That number of potential customers will be up to half of premises by June 30 next year and the project will be complete in 2019/20.

This has been a massive turn around and it is delivering super-fast connectivity right across Australia in the most remote areas by satellite, many regional areas by fixed wireless and the bulk of the country by fixed line.

It is an absolutely critically important step-change. It will power tourism across Australia. It will open new business opportunities and allow operators to better connect with their overseas markets and customers and better enable those millennials and the parents, of whom Katie spoke, to share their experiences on Instagram, Facebook and the other social media platforms, that as you all know are so powerful and influential in terms of promoting awareness and making foreign visitors or potential foreign visitors eager and interested, excited about coming to Australia.

We are also investing a record $50 billion in transport infrastructure across the nation. This is not only critical to moving people between centres but to making our cities more liveable and more productive and places that people want to visit.

The liveability of our cities is a vital economic asset. Not just for us that live in them but for those who want to visit them, who want to come and work or invest in them. Our city's policy is absolutely supporting your industry and your objectives of increasing visitor numbers.

One of our priorities is improving aviation connectivity, which as you know is so crucial to your business. The number of airline passengers travelling to and from Australia climbed seven per cent in the past year to 36 million. Passenger numbers are expected to continue to increase as we continue our push to improve access to airports across the nation.

We have classified both Brisbane West Well Camp and Avalon airports as regional international gateways under our bilateral air services agreements and that will help these airports reach their potential as international airports.

Canberra airport as you know, now has flights directly to Singapore and of course New Zealand and we are also investing more than $21 million to upgrade regional airports like Merimbula, Port Macquarie, Busselton, Margaret River and Dubbo. And just last week we have provided a $181 million concessional loan to help fund the construction of a new runway at the Sunshine Coast Airport. This will provide aircraft as large as the Airbus A330 direct access to that rapidly growing regional hub.

And of course, the Western Sydney Airport will be another jewel in the crown for aviation services development in Australia. A new world class airport in Western Sydney will ensure we are well placed to meet the growing demand in the Sydney basin as a tourist destination. It is expected to commence operations in the mid-20s and cater for an estimated 10 million passengers a year by the early 2030s.

By 2050, it could potentially be as busy as Kingsford Smith Airport is today. With some 37 million passengers a year expected to increase to 82 million by the 2060s.It will be one of the biggest transport infrastructure projects Australia has seen in decades. We are getting on with ensuring it is built and making sure it will be well connected to the region both by road and by rail.

Tourism is particularly important as you know for regional Australia with 45 cents in every tourism dollar spent in the regions. In Victoria, the magnificent Great Ocean Road will benefit from a $25 million road upgrade and a $20 million jobs and investment package to boost local business and employment.

We need to ensure that our regions have the transport links to enable them to be well committed to our cities and to each other. Ease of access is a deciding factor for many tourists in where they spend their time and whether they return or recommend it to family and friends.

We are spending $5.6 billion completing the Pacific Highway duplication in NSW by 2020, and we have committed to a $6.7 billion, 10-year program of works on the Bruce Highway in Queensland, providing vital upgrades to the magnificent Pacific Coast Drive which offers something for everyone - iconic surf beaches and eco-tourism, to the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Tweed Heads and the Gold Coast.

Getting people into the cities and regions is just the first step. Their lasting perception of a destination is whether they maximise their time or spent it waiting at train stations and bus stops.

Good public transport connections are critical to a great experience for a tourist and to the success of our cities in general.

In Perth, we are investing $490 million towards a rail link to connect Forrestfield Airport to the city and, in Brisbane, the Redcliffe Peninsula Line is now providing better access to the CBD.

We have committed $95 million towards stage two of the Gold Coast Light Rail which will improve connectivity right through the Gold Coast - the Light Rail has been a vitally important piece of transport infrastructure there, enormous value to tourism, as you know, and of course it improves, ultimately, connectivity between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

G:link will not only support further growth in the region but be a significant factor in allowing the Commonwealth Games spectators to get around, linking five competition venues to accommodation and other transport hubs.

Of course, it is just one aspect of the funding we have injected into the region in preparation for the tourism boom, that will be the Commonwealth Games less than two years from now.

All these initiatives and investments demonstrate an innovative government that is prepared to adapt and to work with the industry and achieve our common goals.

As leaders in these booming tourism and transport industries, I want to thank you all for your efforts to guide your sectors in these exciting and challenging times.

Tourism and transport deserve our focus and I encourage you to keep partnering with the Government to offer your expertise and insights, including over the course of this summit, so that the businesses and the industries you lead will realise their enormous potential.

Thank you very much.