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.

www.dfat.gov.au

www.tourismaustralia.com

 

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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.

www.qrc.org.au

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.

cities.dpmc.gov.au.

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THE Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has engaged international consultancy Accenture to help transform its data collection and survey systems.

Deputy Australian Statistician of the Statistical Business Transformation Group, Trevor Sutton, said the engagement would deliver new data collection systems that reduce the survey burden on Australian households and businesses. He said the move was part of the ABS’s $257million business transformation. 

“Accenture will enable the ABS to issue statistical products more affordably, efficiently and with ICT stability, ultimately ensuring our long term sustainability and statistical contribution to all Australians,” Mr Sutton said.

Accenture won the $19.9 million open tender contract to help the ABS to develop the next generation of statistical infrastructure and transform the way the ABS collects, analyses and accesses statistics.

“The Accenture engagement will enhance our digital data collection, reduce the manual handling, enable cost savings, reduce paper use and improve our reporting and processes,” Mr Sutton said.

“We will be implementing new management tools that will give us a greater capacity for automation, reducing cost and risk through the use of market leading off-the-shelf software rather than bespoke internally developed systems.”

Installation, configuration and testing of the new systems are due to be completed by December 2017, with the solution in use from 2018.

www.abs.gov.au

 

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AUSTRALIA joined more than 150 countries in signing the Paris Agreement, "securing a global agreement to combat climate change" according to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

Mr Hunt signed the Paris Agreement in New York on April 23.

"We will begin our process to ratify the Agreement immediately, and will seek to ratify this year," Mr Hunt said. 

"The Paris Agreement is a turning point in the transition to a lower emissions global economy. The Agreement provides for five yearly reviews of national targets, underpinned by a rules based system that will assess whether countries are meeting their commitments."

Mr Hunt said Australia was playing its part to tackle climate change with effective policies to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Australia is also a partner to the Mission Innovation initiative and will double investment in clean energy research and development over the next five years, he said.

"The Turnbull Government's new $1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund will support emerging technologies to make the leap from demonstration to deployment," Mr Hunt said.

"We are working with a broad range of partners through our $1 billion climate finance commitment, the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Partnership, our International Partnership for Blue Carbon and the Montreal Protocol.

"The latest estimate from the Department of the Environment confirms that Australia is on track to beat our 2020 target by 78 million tonnes of emissions. This is a 50 million tonne improvement on the last estimate in December last year."

The Federal Government also announced a further $11 million investment in new projects to improve the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef, "which will help the Reef to withstand pressures such as the El Nino exacerbated high sea surface temperatures that are causing the current coral bleaching event" Mr Hunt said.

The support includes:

  • $3.3 million to enhance farm management practices by improving nutrient and chemical management among early adopter sugar cane growers.
  • $3.2 million for improve grazing land management to reduce erosion losses to the Reef.
  • $4.8 million to improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef by facilitating the adoption of best practice management in agriculture.

www.environment.gov.au

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ONE in three single parent families with dependants were jobless in June 2015, according to statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently.

Director of Labour Market Analytics at the ABS, Jennifer Humphrys said that in recent years the proportion of jobless families with dependants had remained stable at around 11 percent. 

“There were around 329,200 jobless families with dependants in June 2015,” Ms Humphrys said. "In those families, there were 662,100 dependents aged less than 25 years, 85 percent of whom were children under 15."

The ABS's Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families publication uses data from the ABS Labour Force survey to determine family relationships and the labour force status of the 6.6 million families living in Australia.

The survey also found 53 percent of couple families had both partners working,

The ABS's Labour Force, Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families (cat. no. 6224.0.55.001), is available for free download.

www.abs.gov.au

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THE FEDERAL Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda announcements have been largely welcomed by business, but are some of the program elements premature? Will it need to change in 2016 to adapt to the results of the government’s own Re:think Tax White Paper process?

BDO Research and Development partner Nicola Purser is concerned the government has gone too early on the announcement on December 7.

“The Australian Government is putting academic research ahead of critical industry insights by delivering its innovation statement prior to finalising its current survey of R&D Tax Incentive registrants,” Ms Purser said. 

She said the innovation statement came two weeks following the release of the ACOLA report Translating research for economic and social benefit - Country comparison, an  industry survey which forms as part of the broader Re:think Tax White Paper process.

Ms Purser said it was “disconcerting” that the Australian Government would move on any “revamp of the R&D Tax Incentive” prior to finalising the survey and gathering the insights from business.

The ACOLA report highlighted the need for greater collaboration between researchers, government and the business community.

“With innovation such a critical component of Australia’s economic future, jumping the gun on innovation policy without incorporating commercial insights is incredibly inept,” Ms Purser said.

“In terms of specific measures, I would urge the Australian Government to consider more carefully the critical factors of expediency and promptness in commercial R&D, factors often misunderstood by academia and the public sector. 

“For example, in my experience of working with Australian businesses from a wide variety of sectors, I fail to see how a move to grants and loans, which can be cumbersome, untimely and inflexible, could be seen as progressive,” Ms Purser said.

“Likewise, in response to Australia’s Chief Scientist Ian Chubb’s recent comments suggesting the public sector takes a role in picking winners, I would counter that not only have governments proven notoriously bad at picking winners, this is counterproductive to the spirit of innovation and exposing new ideas to the open market to determine which are successful.” 

A detailed business analysis of the Federal Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda features in the latest Business Acumen magazine, issue #83.

www.bdo.com.au

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