Page 2379 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 28 June 2005

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bulldoze through an issue such as that. You deal with it with some sensitivity and some understanding of the implications for other people, their lives and rights, and that is what we are doing. But we are genuine: the committee has been appointed. We are working through the issues, we are committed to the project and the money is in the bank.

In relation to the arboretum, we had some discussion of that, and I do not know that there is very much more that I could say in relation to it, other than that it is a project that I think is very important to the future of the ACT. It is a significant project. It is a significant addition to the suite of major tourist attractions that we have as a community, that we have been blessed with, such as the national parliament, the war memorial, the national gallery, the national library and the national museum. We have been blessed as a community, as the national capital, to have such wonderful iconic national institutions within our community. We rely on them, significantly, for tourism and industry and for the economic benefit that flows from that.

But we need to continue to renew. We seek to renew through projects such as Floriade. We seek to renew through attracting to the ACT conventions and business, and performances and blockbuster exhibitions. We need to continue to think about what more we can do. This notion that we can be complacent, that we will be all right at the end of the day just simply will not wash. We need to continue to strive to advance our appeal as a destination. And I would have thought anything we can do to do that would be supported by everybody in this place. This is not a short-term project. We will not see those flows of tourist in the short term, but we will in the medium term. I am certain of it. That is my judgement and I believe I will be proven to be right. In time, this will be a major attractor of people to the ACT.

We need to keep working on our attractiveness as a destination. In Japan, in discussions I had with Australia’s commissioner at the expo, it was confronting to have explained to me that, of the 770,000 Japanese tourists who visited Australia last year, less than 20,000 came to the ACT. That really is a challenge. You ask: “What can we do about that?” We can roll over and say that it is all too hard; that we will not embark on a major new venture that we believe will attract the imagination of overseas tourists, as well as domestic tourists, or we can say that we will take this opportunity, out of the devastation of the fire, to rebuild on that site something that all Canberrans can be proud of, that they can visit at their leisure and take their business and families to, that can be used as a magnet to attract people from overseas to Canberra. At the moment, we are not succeeding in attracting international visitors to Australia to Canberra. Less than three per cent of all international visitors to Australia bother to come to the national capital of the country.

We need to continue to find these markets that set us aside as a place that must be visited—a must see destination, the national capital of Australia, Canberra, our home. Our future depends on it, just as it depends on our capacity to otherwise broaden our economic base. I believe this is a wonderful project. I am disappointed that it has not attracted bipartisan support. I believe the people of Canberra will embrace it. It will be a wonderful addition to our suite of committed projects for the people of the ACT. I commend the budget to the house.

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