Labor’s northern tourism fund announcement is nothing short of a money shuffling rebadge.
This announcement does not provide any new money for the development of Northern Australia. Instead, it takes money away from the Coalition's $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, an initiative Labor voted in favour of less than a month ago.
'The Coalition is committed to developing northern Australia. This is why we delivered the Northern Australia White Paper, with more than $1 billion of commitments across 50 initiatives,' Mr Frydenberg said.
'All Labor has done today is shift money sideways. If Labor really cared about the development of northern Australia, they wouldn't take money away from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, they wouldn't stand in the way of the Coalition's tax cuts for small businesses, and they wouldn't bring back the carbon tax.'
The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility can begin lending in one month's time and will support the development of key economic infrastructure that will boost economic and population growth.
Importantly, tourism infrastructure, such as airport extensions, could be eligible for financing under the Coalition's established facility.
‘Tourism is critical to our regions and to the development of the North in particular, which is why tourism infrastructure is eligible under the Northern Australia Investment Facility’, said the Minister for Tourism and International Education, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck.
‘Tourism was identified as a key economic driver in our Northern Australia White Paper, demonstrated by further initiatives such as allowing backpackers to work for 12 (up from six) months with a single employer in the north, and granting a number a second year if they work in the tourism industry’.
‘$16 million was also committed under the White Paper to extend management advice to businesses in the northern tourism industry under the Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Programme’, Senator Colbeck said.
Senator Canavan predicted this would be just the first of many “funding raids” by the Labor party.
“Labor can’t be trusted with money,” he said. “For example, soon after they came to power in 2007 they raided a $2 billion regional communications fund.
“With Labor in government – and relying on the Greens for support in Parliament – the remaining $4 billion in the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF). couldn't be guaranteed not to be raided by Labor.
“And we know the Greens would flatly oppose many of the job-creating infrastructure projects the Coalition wants to see go ahead in northern Australia.
“We have appointed an independent board to manage loans from the NAIF. But Labor wants its tourism money to go out through a federal government department, no doubt subject to direction by a Labor minister.
“Besides, why limit tourism projects to just a billion dollars? Under the existing NAIF scheme, tourism ventures have a chance to apply for up to $5 billion.”