Na­tional po­lit­i­cal lead­ers pledge cash in bid for votes

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - HOLLY ROBERT­SON

THE bat­tle for votes in the Far North has stepped up a notch with the Prime Min­is­ter and Fed­eral Op­po­si­tion Leader vis­it­ing Cairns this week on whis­tle-stop tours.

Ju­lia Gil­lard and Tony Abbott both ar­rived with big wads of cash to sweeten the bar­gain for vot­ers in the key seat of Le­ich­hardt, which takes in the for­mer Dou­glas Shire.

Mr Abbott on Mon­day an­nounced $92 mil­lion in spend­ing for tourism ini­tia­tives over four years if the LNP is elected.

The pack­age in­cludes $10 mil­lion to pro­mote Cairns in China and New Zealand, as well as $62 mil­lion for in­fra­struc­ture grants and re­search.

LNP can­di­date for Le­ich­hardt War­ren Entsch said the promised funds could help kick-start projects such as the Dain­tree Gate­way and Port Dou­glas Water­front pro­pos­als.

“It would give peo­ple en­cour­age­ment to know there is money avail­able, that the govern­ment was tourism-friendly and ready to put dol­lars in,” he said.

Le­ich­hardt La­bor MP Jim Turnour pointed to $40 mil­lion in tourism grants and $30 mil­lion to mar­ket Aus­tralia to China promised by the Govern­ment over the next four years.

Mr Turnour also said he had helped bring an ex­tra 5225 air­line seats into Cairns Air­port in the last year.

“The Gil­lard govern­ment has in­vested mil­lions of dol­lars to bring air­lines back to Cairns,” he said.

“Un­der the for­mer mem­ber, War­ren Entsch, we saw air­line af­ter air­line leave Cairns in that 12 year pe­riod.”

But Tourism Port Dou­glas Dain­tree ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Doug Ryan was unim­pressed with the prom­ises from both par­ties.

“It has to be mar­ket­ing money, not in­fra­struc­ture and all the fluffy stuff that money gets wasted on, we need dol­lars for di­rect mar­ket­ing,” he said.

“I haven’t seen any­thing that I would say is ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial for our re­gion at the moment.”

This week was the first time ei­ther party leader had ven­tured to the re­gion since the elec­tion was called al­most three weeks ago, but nei­ther made it as far as Dou­glas.

Dur­ing her trip, Ms Gil­lard also an­nounced $9.4 mil­lion for a rain­for­est re­search fa­cil­ity in the Dain­tree and $14.4 mil­lion for 16 new rehabilitation beds at Cairns Base Hos­pi­tal.

In April, La­bor also com­mit­ted to build­ing a $13 mil­lion drug and al­co­hol rehabilitation cen­tre at Cook­town, which will be ac­ces­si­ble to pa­tients across Cape York in­clud­ing Moss­man from 2011.

Mr Entsch said it was un­likely the LNP would an­nounce a sim­i­lar project dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, but he was “ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted” to es­tab­lish­ing a re­hab cen­tre for the Cape.

The Op­po­si­tion can­di­date is the book­ies’ favourite to win Le­ich­hardt, with Sports­bet odds putting Mr Entsch at $1.60 and Mr Turnour on $2.20.

But his cam­paign hit a snag when Tony Abbott would not com­mit funds to Mr Entsch’s grand vi­sion for the Cairns re­gion.

Mr Entsch re­cently floated his idea for Cairns sports tourism in­dus­try, which in­cluded a 20,000seat foot­ball field, Olympic hockey and ten­nis fa­cil­i­ties and a pool re­fur­bish­ment.

He made the com­ments as an al­ter­na­tive to the pro­posed $241 mil­lion Cairns per­form­ing arts precinct, to which La­bor has com­mit­ted $40 mil­lion.

But Mr Abbott would not back ei­ther project, say­ing La­bor was on a “spend­ing spree” and his pri­or­ity was re­spon­si­ble fi­nan­cial man­age­ment.

Mean­while, nei­ther party has changed their po­si­tions on il­le­gal tur­tle and dugong hunt­ing, with the LNP com­mit­ted to cut­ting hunt­ing by 90 per cent within 100 days and La­bor in­vest­ing $10 mil­lion in a sea coun­try in­dige­nous part­ner­ship pro­gram amongst other ini­tia­tives.

On the prowl: Leader of the Op­po­si­tion Tony Abbott in Cairns this week

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