AUSTRALIA has, for the first time, enticed more than eight million international tourists over the last 12 months, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The acceleration of international visitors has been dramatic, with the eight million mark being reached just 18 months after visitor numbers eclipsed seven million annually.
In contrast, it took more than six years for visitor numbers to climb from five million to six million.
“Since 2013, growth in the tourism industry has supercharged with visitor numbers breaking the six, seven, and now eight million mark,” Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steven Ciobo said.
“This rapid rise has come on the back of strong Coalition Government support for the tourism industry. The tourism industry is growing three times faster under the Coalition Government than it was under the previous Labor Government.”
Mr Ciobo said the Federal Government’s support for the tourism industry “hasn’t happened by accident”
There have been some key changes to the sector, credited with helping to boost inbound tourism, including a lowering of the value of the Australian dollar in recent years.
Mr Ciobo said one factor hardly remembered was the removal of the former Labor Government’s carbon tax “which slugged the tourism sector over $115 million in its first year alone”.
He said the previous governments cuts to the Tourism Australia budget were reversed into a record $639 million spend on Tourism Australia to promote Australia internationally.
There have also been several practical moves, including increasing the number of markets that have access to online visa lodgement from 72 to more than 200, including China, India and Indonesia.
The Government has also announced a new 10-year multiple entry visitor visa to encourage repeat visitation from China and made visa applications available online in Simplified Chinese – the first time Australia has trialled visa application lodgement in a language other than English.
Perhaps just as importantly, Australia has expanded international aviation capacity, including a tripling of gateway capacity between Australia and China.
“To drive further growth from our largest tourism market the Prime Minister and Chinese President have jointly designated 2017 as the Australia-China Year of Tourism,” Mr Ciobo said.
Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Ian Macfarlane has renewed calls for a new High Efficiency and Low Emission (HELE) coal fired power station in North Queensland to combat rising electricity prices.
Speaking at the Gladstone Engineering Alliance Breakfast, Mr Macfarlane said energy security was a serious hurdle for companies to remain competitive in the resources sector.
“Gladstone has a strong manufacturing and industrial base with two alumina refineries and affordable and reliable energy is critical in keeping these trade-exposed industries globally competitive,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“A recent QRC survey of resources chief executives found the state government’s decision to set the 50 percent renewables target by 2030 is a major concern to the sector.
“The survey also found that increases in electricity prices were making it hard to do business in Queensland.
“It needs to be a less ideological argument about where we get our energy from and a more practical discussion about how we provide both reliable and cheaper electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“Gladstone is home to Queensland’s largest coal-fired power plants but more, cleaner baseload supply is needed in the NEM (National Electricity Market) grid, particularly in North Queensland, if we are manage more renewables and to prevent wholesale electricity spikes on days of high east coast demand.”
Mr Macfarlane said Gladstone’s LNG exports had more than tripled with all three LNG operations online for the first time over the calendar year.
“LNG exports out of Queensland reached a new record at 17.5 million tonnes and were exported to 14 countries across the world despite green activists claiming fossil fuels are in decline,” he said.
“This has been an enormous boost to the Queensland economy, providing vital export income and jobs for Queenslanders.”
The LNG sector is forecast to continue its record export growth that is being driven by China and Europe. The latest report by the Office of the Chief Economist estimates China’s LNG imports to have increased by 28 per cent in 2016 and Europe is forecast to increase by 21 percent a year until 2018.
“As we know from our current economic data, in 2015-16, Queensland’s gas industry contributed $12.8 billion to the state’s economy and supported more than 65,000 employees,” Mr Macfarlane said.
LOCAL COMMUNITIES are being encouraged to submit their ideas before January 20 on shaping a Federal Government program that will develop technology solutions for rollout across Australia.
Draft guidelines for the $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program were released for public consultation in December with the first funding round due to open in the second quarter of 2017.
Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor said there had been more than 800 downloads of the draft guidelines and public feedback was being sought.
“We’ve had significant interest in the draft guidelines and I encourage the public and stakeholders to take advantage of the opportunity to have a say on the program before consultation closes at the end of next week,” Mr Taylor said.
“Communities of all sizes will be able to apply for funding under the program. We’re looking for digital and data solutions which solve everyday urban problems and have the potential to be scaled up and delivered Australia wide.”
The Smart Cities and Suburbs Program aims to deploy new ideas not yet seen in Australia.
“The projects must place the citizen at the centre,” Mr Taylor said. “Smart Cities need to take a people-first approach to designing and delivering responsive public services, with the help of smart technologies.”
When the first funding round opens, eligible applicants will be able to apply for up to $5 million in Federal grant funding. At least $10 million will be available to support smaller projects with a total value under $1 million.
The program has been designed to accelerate the roll out of ready-to-deploy projects, and to provide support and incubation for projects in their early stages.
“The Australian Government is committed to working with governments, business and the community to help our cities – regional and metropolitan – reach their full potential,” Mr Taylor said.
He said stakeholders interested in the program could download the draft guidelines and provide comment until January 20 through the Government’s Cities website.