Abbott defends tourism boost

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Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has defended a coalition plan to boost the tourism sector, saying it has been limited by the current budgetary environment.

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Mr Abbott on Monday took his election campaign to Cairns to unveil a $62 million package for the tourism sector, including $40 million to help boost infrastructure.

The package builds on $28 million announced last week for event tourism.

Tourism was an integral part of Australia’s economy, providing employment for nearly 500,000 Australians, Mr Abbott said.

But Mr Abbott also defended the size of the package which is aimed at supporting a $92 billion a year industry worth $24 billion in export earnings.

“I accept that $90 million is not a huge amount of money but it’s not an insignificant amount of money either,” Mr Abbott said.

“It’s carefully targeted and in the current fiscal environment I think that is a very responsible spend.”

The $62 million announced on Monday includes $40 million over four years for a tourism infrastructure and development fund to drive investment in the sector.

The fund will provide grants of up to $100,000 on a merits basis to support projects that help to drive the development of local tourism, while infrastructure grants will be available for larger projects.

Mr Abbott also pledged $14 million over four years for domestic tourism development grants worth up to $100,000 for regional tourism organisations.

The coalition will provide Tourism Research Australia with $8 million over four years to grow its tourism research capabilities.

“The modern Australian economy is almost inconceivable without the contribution that the tourism sector makes,” Mr Abbott said.

“It’s a critical part of our economy.”