WA Labor promises Aboriginal tourism boost

·3-min read

Western Australia's Labor government has promised a significant Aboriginal tourism boost but rejected calls for more help to the broader sector.

Premier Mark McGowan on Monday unveiled a $217 million tourism plan to be delivered under a re-elected Labor administration.

The package includes $50 million to help establish an Aboriginal cultural centre on the banks of the Derbarl Yerrigan - or Swan River - in Perth.

A further $20 million would go towards an Aboriginal tourism fund if Labor is re-elected at the March 13 poll, while the rest has been earmarked for expanding the Aboriginal Ranger program and tourism infrastructure upgrades.

"It's a massive investment in a centre that could very well be one of the world's leading centres for Aboriginal history, culture and tradition," the premier told reporters.

Mr McGowan said he hoped the centre would be open by 2029, which is the 200th anniversary of Perth's formal establishment by British colonists.

He wants the private sector and federal government to contribute to developing an "iconic building" which would follow on the heels of the highly successful new WA Museum Boola Bardip opening in Northbridge last year.

WA's Tourism Council estimates the sector lost at least $130 million during the recent coronavirus lockdown and increased restrictions.

It has urged Labor and the Liberals to commit to a $50 million support package which could include the waiving of fees and taxes and direct financial support.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said the state government had already provided substantial assistance.

"We'll look for other ways of assisting. But what you're talking about here is particularly those businesses who are vulnerable to not being able to access their normal market, which is international visitors," he said.

"The federal government have the capacity to step up and assist by extending either JobKeeper or a version of that."

The site for the new Aboriginal cultural centre will be chosen in consultation with Whadjuk traditional owners and the broader Noongar community.

King's Park, Heirisson Island and the Terrace Road foreshore have been floated as potential locations.

"The whole place is a heritage place for us," Noongar elder Richard Walley said.

"We have to find an ideal place that can interpret both the built form but more importantly, incorporate the natural heritage."

Treasurer Ben Wyatt said it was likely to have a similar cost to the $400 million Boola Bardip.

Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup campaigned in Kalamunda on Monday, days after a new poll showed his party was heading for a crushing defeat.

A Newspoll published by The Weekend Australian showed WA Labor leading 68 to 32 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

Mr Kirkup is warning voters not to let Labor seize "total control" of the parliament.

"I reject the polls entirely because if Newspoll was right, we'd be here in the second year of a Shorten Labor government," he said.

"Last time I checked, Scott Morrison and the Liberals won the last election."