Battle for Keppel heats up GKI's expensive campaign promise
IN ONE of the largest promises this election campaign, major tourism infrastructure "crucial" to a flourishing Great Keppel Island (GKI) would be constructed if Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk retained power.
Included in the $25 million "GKI recovery package" are key power and water connections to the mainland, sewerage treatment, a public jetty and boat ramp as well as amenities for visitors, including public toilets.
The policy, which outlines the plan to "rejuvenate" the island, makes no mention of allowing a boutique casino on the island.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones and Keppel MP Brittany Lauga made the announcement at Yeppoon yesterday.
Mrs Lauga said the local economy would benefit from a flourishing GKI, and the State Government was prepared to put funding on the table to ensure more jobs in the region's tourism industry.
The GKI commitment is part of a $134 million package to secure more direct international flights and cruise ships and rejuvenate Great Barrier Reef island resorts if the Palaszczuk Government was re-elected.
"Tourism has gone from strength to strength under the Palaszczuk Government," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"This state's tourism industry is worth $25 billion and supports 225,000 jobs."
She said the government have delivered a four-year $400 million "funding guarantee for tourism".
Ms Jones said the state's tourism industry is "stronger than it ever has been before" and cited multi-million-dollar, tourism-focused government programs (see fact box).
"We have a proven track record of securing direct flights to our most important tourism destinations," Ms Jones said.
"This funding commitment will allow us to strengthen our ties with some of the world's fastest growing tourism markets."
The $48 million Attracting Tourism Fund will provide incentives for airlines to bring more direct flights to Queensland and for cruise lines to set up home ports in the state as well as sail to regional locations more frequently.
The Queensland Government claims since 2015, it has secured additional flights to the tune of 740,000 seats, generating up to $570 million for the state's economy.
They also claim 468 cruise ships visited Queensland last financial year, almost double the number from 2012-13.
This financial year Queensland is set to welcome a record 518 cruise ships to Queensland, the equivalent of 10 per week.
The Premier said a re-elected Labor government would ensure tourism continued to grow.
"The only way Queenslanders can ensure the tourism industry will continue to go from strength to strength is to vote Labor," she said.
Minister for Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan said in his understanding of what the GKI resort needed was much more than $25m.
"I do question whether this amount of money will make a real difference, it seems to be something that has been dreamt up at the last minute by the Labor party as a desperate attempt to hold the seat of Keppel," Mr Canavan said.
"It's not clear why this couldn't have been done while they were in government.
"We've seen for the last 18 months or so the member for Keppel Brittany Lauga has been complaining loudly that the federal government needed to fund this infrastructure."
He said the government had been working with Tower and the proponents for the GKI resort and confirmed that it was difficult to get the economics for the project to work without a boutique gaming licence to attract the investment that was needed.
"I think it's great that the LNP have at least left the door open to a gaming licence on GKI," he said.
One Nation candidate for Keppel Matt Loth has warned Labor that voters wouldn't allow them to pork barrel their way to success this election after announcing a 'rejuvenation' package for GKI.
"If the Member for Keppel kept her word we wouldn't be in this predicament," Mr Loth said.
He claimed Labor had no idea what this region wants and needs and they were kidding themselves if they thought work could be done for $25m.