Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3816 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
Mr Proud's words? Or is taking two years to make a decision your definition of "urgent"?
MR QUINLAN: I do not recall Mr Proud's exact words. I did actually meet the AHA, and it was an interesting meeting. Like some of the people we discussed yesterday, they were all acting out of pure altruism, for the benefit of the ACT economy. But when I came to this portfolio-I think I have advised this house before-I spent considerable time, particularly in the early months of this government, talking to the tourism industry and found that they were a most disgruntled group.
I also found that it had already been established that the Convention Centre was inadequate and in a poor state. But, at that point, what had been done was absolutely nothing. This is a common feature of various areas of importance that we come across.
All I will do at this stage is advise the house that a considerable amount of work has been done in relation to opportunities within the tourism industry and particularly in relation to the establishment of an adequate tourism facility, whatever it might be.
To divine what would be the most appropriate convention facilities for the ACT, apropos of the question that I just took from Mrs Cross, we might take a whole different view of the type of convention facility that might be offered in Canberra. That might provide for some specific and more highly secure conventions and meetings than one would ordinarily plan for.
There have been sites identified in relation to a possible replacement convention centre. We have a study that tells us that to do up the old Convention Centre would cost an arm and a leg for what you would get. I have said publicly that I will consider public/private partnerships. As recently as this morning, the Chief Minister met a number of people directly associated with tourism and business ACT in relation to what might well become a genuine proposition.
It is quite clear that if we want to build a quality convention centre in the ACT, it is not just going to come out of recurrent expenditure, because we are talking very large licks of money. We need to be a little bit more inventive than that.
In terms of where we want to go, I think we have made fairly good progress, From the opposition we have easy choices. What do you do when you haven't got an idea in your head? You say, "The government's not moving quick enough," or "I haven't seen the terms of reference," or "You haven't given us a specific date." We are, in fact, getting on with the job, and we have made a lot more progress on coming up with a genuine, viable, operational convention centre in the ACT than you ever had.
MR SMYTH: I have a supplementary question. Minister, is your do-nothing approach as tourism minister the reason why the ABS records show that visitor numbers to the ACT have fallen by 11 per cent in your first year as tourism minister?
MR QUINLAN: No. I said on radio this morning that, if Mr Smyth actually does succeed in replacing Mr Humphries as leader of the Liberal Party, ACT politics can look forward to an era of negativity characterised by distortion, exaggeration, repetition and no imagination. I might actually join in the repetitive process and make that remark in