Scott Mor­ri­son and Bill Shorten scram­ble to pledge more than $200m for Kakadu

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Aus­tralian As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

Pho­to­graph: Michael Franchi/ AAP

Scott Mor­ri­son trav­elled to Jabiru to an­nounce the Coali­tion’s $216m fund­ing pack­age to re­vi­talise Kakadu.

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