MR ENTSCH: On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia, I present the committee’s report entitled Northern horizons—unleashing our tourism potential: report on the inquiry into opportunities and methods for stimulating the tourism industry in northern Australia.
Northern Australia has many natural advantages that make it a unique and unforgettable tourism destination.
Northern Australia’s varied and pristine natural landscapes and wilderness areas; its strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture; and its proximity to Asia present major tourism opportunities.
As well as providing incredible experiences for visitors, stimulating the tourism industry in Northern Australia will support the long-term economic and social development of the north.
Tourism investment and development can also contribute to the sustainability of a large number of remote and regional communities.
While northern Australia’s natural advantages are significant, there are a range of challenges facing tourism operators which has meant tourism growth has been inconsistent across the north.
This report outlines 33 recommendations to address these challenges with the aim of stimulating tourism in northern Australia.
These recommendations focus on: enhancing the marketing of northern Australia, facilitating timely and affordable access to the north and its tourist attractions, supporting tourism operators and entrepreneurs, and improving the planning and coordination of the development of tourism destinations.
The Northern horizons report also identifies major areas of opportunity for tourism growth in the north, which reflect its natural attractions (such as coral reefs, beaches, tropical rainforests, desert, lakes and mountains), its rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, and outback experiences and way of life.
In particular, the committee examined ways to stimulate further investment in, and development of: eco, cultural, drive, educational and industrial tourism.
As well as holding public hearings and inspections across mainland northern Australia, the committee visited the Indian Ocean Territories.
The committee found that there are untapped opportunities to expand the tourism offerings in the Indian Ocean Territories, but that challenges related to remoteness and limited tourism infrastructure have presented barriers to tourism growth.
Reflecting these circumstances, the committee has made recommendations specifically focused on the development of tourism in the Indian Ocean Territories, including that the Christmas Island casino resort be reopened as a matter of absolute priority.
This is similar to recommendations made by the national capital and external territories committee over successive parliaments.
It was also a recommendation that we made in our first northern Australia report, the Pivot north report back in, I think, 2016.
A large proportion of the tourism industry in northern Australia is made up of small- to medium-sized businesses, many of which are family owned and operated.
As such, the committee has made recommendations to ensure that government programs related to tourism are appropriately targeted to meet the needs of small- to medium-sized enterprises.
This included recommending eligibility requirements for aspects of the Northern Australia Tourism Initiative be expanded to enable access for smaller businesses and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses.
The Northern horizons report and its recommendations build on the predecessor committee’s report Pivot north: inquiry into the development of northern Australia, released—I stand corrected—in 2014.
Pivot north outlined a range of opportunities for development in the north, one of which was tourism.
This report reiterates the recommendations outlined in Pivot north that relate to tourism, as well as the recommendations regarding the need to reduce insurance premiums—which are still very much an impost—upgrade roads and port infrastructure, and lower airport security and flight costs in Northern Australia.
On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank the range of individuals, businesses, organisations and government agencies who provided information to this inquiry. In particular, I would like to thank the small tourism operators who took precious time away from their businesses to provide submissions, attend public hearings, and host committee inspections.
I would also like to thank committee members for their participation in this inquiry. In particular, I’d like to thank my deputy chair, the honourable member for Lingiari, sitting across from me here, for the very cooperative way in which he handled issues in developing the north.
I’d like to thank all committee members and the secretariat for their ongoing commitment to the work that we’re doing here and, of course, the economic and social development of northern Australia.
I commend the report to the House.