Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands—Creating opportunities for the future
05 April 2018
I am very pleased to be appointed as Federal Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government. I look forward to working in partnership with the communities of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to support economic development, liveability and prosperity.
As the representative of my own community of Toowoomba in Queensland, I am passionate about supporting and representing Australians in regional communities. Having been an elected representative for my region over recent years, at the local council, state government and federal government levels, I am familiar with the breadth and depth of services that make a difference locally. I am proud to have advocated for my community and contributed to a strong and enterprising regional centre. Prior to entering politics, I had a family farming background, a fulfilling career in agribusiness, and operated a management consulting practice working for regional Australian businesses and industries.
Both Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands have a long and proud history, and strong, dynamic multicultural communities. I look forward to visiting the islands and discussing the issues that make a difference to residents, local Shires, businesses and community organisations.
Christmas Island is undergoing a period of change. As your new Minister, I am committed to working with you to support your transition to a new economic future. The Government has provided $100,000 to the Regional Development Organisation to develop a Strategic Plan for Christmas Island. Driven by the Administrator, Mrs Natasha Griggs, the Strategic Plan will be developed in consultation with the community and reflect your goals, objectives and aspirations. I look forward to working with the Administrator, your Shire, businesses and the community to progress this important piece of work.
The release of Crown land on Christmas Island will support economic activity. I was heartened by the response to the Government's call for expressions of interest in Crown land, with innovative projects in tourism, retail and community facilities being proposed by the respondents. My priority is to finalise arrangements for the release of Crown land and I expect to make announcements on the next steps in the process soon.
The economy of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands also presents opportunities for growth, and a key priority will be the development of a Strategic Plan in 2018-19.
The recent inclusion of the Indian Ocean Territories in the Regional Development Australia network will support economic activity and diversity, and encourage increased investment. The Regional Investment Officer will work closely with local businesses and the Shires to help create jobs, attract business investment and grow the economy. The Regional Investment Officer will also work with local community groups to develop strong and competitive applications for grants, bringing increased funding to the islands.
I understand both territories are remarkably beautiful, with Christmas Island showcasing unique flora and fauna and a dramatic landscape. The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are known as a tranquil destination and home to Australia's ‘best beach’ (2017) and spectacular water sports. The Australian Government provides funding to both local tourism associations to support their work in promoting the islands to domestic and international markets. The Australian Government also underwrites air services to the islands and is working with the provider, Virgin Australia, to increase their communication with community, businesses and passengers alike. Building tourism, and diversifying experiences for tourists, will support growth in both local economies.
I met with the Administrator during her recent visit to Canberra. She is a strong advocate of the territories and a passionate supporter of your communities. Natasha's door is always open and I encourage anyone interested in supporting your community further to contact her Office.
From a personal perspective, I am looking forward to the opportunity to lead the Government's role in delivering services to Australia's external territories. I bring an appreciation of the challenges of regional and remote Australia, a drive to implement the Government's priority actions, and a commitment to work in partnership with residents and businesses to grow the local economy, creating jobs and improving infrastructure. I look forward to meeting you during 2018.