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Doorstop - Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville

27 February 2019

Subject: AIMS Index of Marine Industry, flood support for North Queensland businesses and Security of Payments


The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP held a doorstop to discuss the AIMS Index of Marine Industry, flood support for North Queensland and Security of Payments.

Karen Andrews: Well, it’s a pleasure to be here this morning at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, to officially launch the AIMS index into marine industries. We know that the marine industries in Australia provide a significant amount of money to the Australian economy. What this report shows is a number of things. Firstly, that the marine industry has doubled in size over the last ten years. It is now worth approximately $70 billion to the Australian economy. It’s also projected to grow to approximately $100 billion by 2025. Now, there are a number of key components of the marine industry, certainly oil and gas. But for the first time ever, tourism has overtaken the amount of money that comes into the marine industries, then through oil and gas. So that’s very positive news, particularly for us here in North Queensland, where we do rely, to a certain extent, on tourism and particularly tourism with the Great Barrier Reef.

So the release of today’s report shows that we have significant opportunities to continue to grow marine industries here in Australia. And of course, the Australian Institute of Marine Science has a significant role in making sure that the work that is being done in the marine industries, is sustainable into the future. Now the Liberal National Government recognises that the climate is changing, and we are fully supportive of the work that is being done by our leading science agencies such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science in climate, in the environment, and making sure that we are protecting one of our greatest natural assets which is the Great Barrier Reef. So it’s a pleasure to be here today to officially launch this report. But there’s also something else that I would like to add in addition to launching the report and that is clearly Townsville has been significantly affected by weather events over the last few weeks. As a Townsville girl myself, I actually grew up in Townsville, my heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by the flooding and the tragic loss of lives that have come from the recent weather events here in Townsville. I have tasked my department to provide additional support to small businesses in the Townsville area, to assist them with the challenges that they will be facing over the next couple of weeks and months, with disruptions potentially to the supply chain and other issues that will be affecting them because of the flooding that has been experienced. So we will have on the ground, some small business advisors to work with small businesses. We will be conducting workshops to assist them to get back on their feet as soon as they possibly can.

So two announcements today; the additional support to small businesses and the release of the marine industry report. I’d actually like to invite Paul Hardesty to say a few words, and then we’ll take questions.

Paul Hardesty: Thanks minister and thank you so much for coming up today and launching the AIMS Index of Marine Industries. Again, an important document we’ve been doing it every couple of years now for a long, long time. And it just highlights, as the Minister said, the importance of the marine economy to Australian wellbeing, and to Australian economic activity. And it really underpins the fact that AIMS is out there trying to deliver real impact to help support the sustainable growth of that marine economy, and to support the sustainability of all of our marine ecosystems right across the tropics. All the way from the Great Barrier Reef, through the top end and all the way through down into Western Australia. So it’s great to have you here. We’re about to go on a tour of our National Sea Simulator which is the world’s most sophisticated marine aquarium research complex, there’s nothing like it anywhere in the world, its kind of the jewel in our crown, and we’re really looking forward to showing you around then, in the next few minutes. So thanks everyone for coming out, and we really appreciate it.

Karen Andrews: Looking forward to it, thank you. Are there any questions?

Question: What are the reasons that the tourism industry has now eclipsed the resources in the marine sector?

Karen Andrews: I think a lot of it has to do with Australia becoming a significant international tourist destination, so it’s more that we are growing the tourism sector more so than any declines in oil and gas. And I think that’s positive news for Australia, we certainly have lots of opportunities to continue to grow our tourism here in Australia. And what we do know is that we need people to come in for a minimum of five to seven days when they visit. We need to increase the number of international tourists that are coming into Australia, but we can actually use our marine industry to grow that even further. Tourists are certainly very interested in coming to Queensland, visiting the Great Barrier Reef, and we want to encourage that to happen.

Question: That industry, in the report, says its worth $36 billion annually, but the Climate Solutions Fund only works out to be about $200 million annually, is that enough to protect the industry, even you said it’s going to be growing now and eclipsing oil and gas?

Karen Andrews: Well there’s certainly a lot of work that needs to be done with climate. So the Liberal National Government has made some announcements recently with that. We’ve also demonstrated a very strong commitment to the Australian Institute of Marine Science. So the Liberal National Government has contributed over $50 million more to the Australian Institute of Marine Science than Labor did when they were in government. That is something that I wish to continue into the future, as the Minister for Industry Science and Technology. I’m very supportive of the work that AIMS is doing and I give them my commitment to work with them, to support them into the future as they work to protect one of our largest assets, which is the Great Barrier Reef.

Question: In terms of providing jobs, just give us an idea of what kind of jobs and the extent of that the marine industry provides for Australians as well?

Karen Andrews: Well there’s a wide range of jobs in the marine industries. Some are facing skill shortages, so if we actually look at those in the vocational education sector, we know that hospitality is a key area where we have some shortages; we have shortages in chefs and cooks, so they’re opportunities for growth into the future.

Of course if you’re looking at oil and gas in our resources sector, you’ll have opportunities for traditional trades such as your diesel mechanics, your fitters, your electricians. At the higher-ed sector, you actually have growth in the science community, so particularly for marine scientists, of which there are plenty here at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and of course at James Cook University as well. So there’s a range of jobs with a whole lot of experience that we can be looking to fill into the future. What this does is give an opportunity for young people to understand that there is a bright future for them in marine industries and there are many different jobs that they could be aspiring to.

Question: I mean it’s obviously a booming industry if we’ve seen it more than double so I mean should more money be poured into it so we can it see it continue to grow at such a rapid rate?

Karen Andrews: There’s a key role for industry itself in developing this sector. So yes there is a role for government with funding but there’s also an opportunity for engagement between researchers in industry and that’s what AIMS and James Cook University do to grow the sectors here. So I would encourage industry to look broadly at the opportunities that are available in the marine industry and look at how they can grow their businesses and particularly how they can engage with AIMS and JCU to innovate and to take their ideas through to commercialisation.

Question: On the business councillors in the wake of the floods, is there a dollar figure on the amount of advice and counselling that would be provided across starting in March?

Karen Andrews: Look, not at this point in time. The support that my department will be giving will just be tested over the next couple of weeks or months. I’m happy to look at what the needs of Townsville and the surrounding areas are, because we need to get Townsville back into business. I mean, that’s really well underway, but we actually want to provide support to make sure that businesses can take the final steps to get themselves back up and running. So my commitment is to support small business here in Townsville.

Question: How exactly will that work? It’s good to say we want to get the town back up and running, but nuts and bolts wise what are some of the things that business owners can expect from the support?

Karen Andrews: Okay, so what we will be doing in the announcement that I am making today is that under the Entrepreneurs’ Program through the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science we have advisors that work with businesses to assist them to build their businesses, to innovate, to commercialise some of their ideas. What we are specifically doing in Townsville is running workshops identifying what the key issues are – whether it’s problems with the supply chain, whether it’s developing new markets because they have to reach outside of the Townsville area – we’ll be working with industry in Townsville to make sure that we are developing programmes to support their needs. So the first step will be workshops run by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. I’ll be meeting with them this afternoon and we’ll take that to the next step to continue the planning for the workshops to get them up and running as soon as we possibly can.

Question: Fantastic. [Indistinct] sorry, just ask you a quick one more? The Insurance Council Australia currently estimates the damage to Townsville’s about $1 billion and 10 per cent of that is the remaining [indistinct]. Are these councillors going to be enough to sort of bring back that huge amount of damage that they’ve suffered?

Karen Andrews: Well, I think that it’s incumbent on all of us to work together to resolve the issues. Insurance is clearly a key issue and the ability of businesses to be able to claim and the ability of the insurance- insurers to deal with those claims quickly and efficiently. But what my focus is on is working with our small businesses to make sure that we get them back up on their feet as soon as we possibly can. And if we take the proactive steps as we are doing now and we all work together, then there’s every chance that there will be a very good outcome for Townsville, and that’s what we need.

Question: To just draw you, I guess, on subcontractors and security of payments, there’s been some movement in that area with the state LNP pledging an inquiry and I believe Bill Shorten was in town yesterday announcing his plan if he were to take government. Is your government- is the Commonwealth government doing anything to help subcontractors?

Karen Andrews: Well, security in payments is clearly a state and territory issue, and that has been well-recognised. So there was a review into this about two years ago; the Murray Review looked at security of payment issues as well. I chair the Building Ministers’ Forum, which is a forum comprising all of the building ministers from the states and territories with the Commonwealth as the chair of that. We met only a couple of weeks ago in Hobart, and whilst clearly the priority in that meeting was to deal with the cladding and flammable cladding issues, there was also a commitment that the states and territories would continue to look at the models to deal with security of payments. Now it is a state or territory issue and I understand that Bill Shorten wants to be all things to all people, but he should actually stick to his knitting quite frankly. This is a state and territory issue. The states and territories are managing this. The support should be from the federal government to the states and territories, which is exactly what the Liberal National Government has been doing and giving them – the states and territories – the opportunity to step up and deal with the issues. I would be surprised if the states and territories were prepared to accept interference from federal Labor.

Question: So is he kind of overstepping his boundaries on this particular issue?

Karen Andrews: He's looking for a headline. It's as simple as that. The states and territories manage building and construction issues. They do that well. They were very clear at the Building Ministers’ Forum particularly in relation to cladding that they were not going to abrogate their responsibilities. I think it's an overreach and it's an overstep by Bill Shorten and he's made a mistake.