Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten scramble to pledge more than $200m for Kakadu
Kakadu national park will get a boost worth more than $200m, with both the major parties committing to revitalise the world heritage-listed Northern Territory site.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, visited the town of Jabiru on Sunday to announce the Coalition’s $216m package.
The government’s plan includes $70m for road upgrades and up to $111m to improve tourism infrastructure.
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“As a government we are committed to our stewardship responsibilities to this unique national treasure and supporting the thousands of Australians whose livelihoods and communities depend on it,” Morrison said.
Australia’s largest national park will receive a funding injection regardless of which party wins this year’s federal election.
Labor has pledged $220m for Kakadu if it wins government with the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, set to travel to the NT on Sunday night.
Labor’s plan includes $100m to upgrade four key access roads, $45m for urgent asbestos work in Jabiru and $25m for a new visitor centre in the town.
Both packages aim to arrest a decline in tourist numbers, which have fallen from 300,000 a year in the late 1980s to about 185,000.
Shorten said tourism and the environment of Kakudu had been neglected for too long.
“I genuinely don’t mind if the prime minister wants to take some of our ideas and announce them,” he told reporters in Melbourne. “I don’t care about the politics. I care about the issues.”
The chair of Kakadu Tourism, Rick Allert, welcomed the announcements, saying better services and access were essential to getting more visitors to the area.
“Our Cooinda and Jabiru properties are fully indigenous owned and have provided the lifeblood of Kakadu’s tourism industry for many decades,” Allert said.
“But there is no doubt that tourism infrastructure has really held back the industry from progressing since the pinnacle of the Crocodile Dundee days.”
The park and town support a significant portion of the 1,600 jobs and $103m the Kakadu Arnhem region brings to the NT economy.
“Today’s announcements are very welcome and timely as the town needs certainty for its future viability and Kakadu is in dire need of a refresh,” said Justin O’Brien, the chief executive of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr traditional owners of Jabiru township in Kakadu national park.
“For this investment to succeed it needs the genuine engagement of traditional owners, outside the usual bureaucratic processes of the national park board of nanagement. This means a direct hand in the new tourism masterplan and roads strategy for the park, and more direct control over the protection and care for the significant Indigenous cultural heritage in the park.”
Also on Sunday Shorten announced that Labor would spend $50m to help find a cure for type 1 diabetes if it won the next election.
The money would allow the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Clinical Research Network to boost the number of clinical trials, translate research into new treatments and help find a cure.
“It will allow Australian patients with type 1 to access clinical trials. It will allow for ground-breaking research conducted in the lab to be translated in a beneficial affordable treatment in the future,” JDRF’s head of research, Dorota Pawlak, told families in Melbourne.
Funding for the network is due to expire in June, a month after the election is due by, but Labor’s plan extends money to JDRF’s research arm until 2024.
Scott Morrison travelled to Jabiru to announce the Coalition’s $216m funding package to revitalise Kakadu.