News.com.au: Kakadu wins as PM, Labor splash cash
14th January 2019
Jabiru in the Northern Territory outback is small and dying but the prime minister and opposition leader have scrambled to get there and commit more than $216 million each to fixing the town and Kakadu National Park.
To illustrate how bemused locals are, 18-year-old traditional owner and Mirrar indigenous clan member Simon Mudjandi mistakenly thanked the Liberal Party for their support when welcoming Labor leader Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten on Monday pledged $220 million for Jabiru and Kakadu if Labor wins government this year, saying it would rescue the park far quicker than Scott Morrison's $216 million package to improve roads and tourist facilities announced on Sunday.
Both parties' packages aim to arrest a decline in tourist numbers, which have fallen from 300,000 a year in the late 1980s when Crocodile Dundee was filmed there to about 185,000.
Facilities are dated and there is criticism of how it is managed.
Visitors complain that key attractions such as Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls cannot be accessed for much of the year due to poor roads.
Federal Lingiari Labor MP Warren Snowdon said the Top End's wet season would make year-round access unlikely even with the cash splash but it would significantly increase access.
It is a big win for the Top End, which is hurting economically.
The first trip by a prime minister to Kakadu in more than a decade was hastily organised after his office learned of Labor's plans for Monday.
Mr Morrison said his Kakadu plan was decided on before Christmas.
"If Mr Morrison wants to borrow some of our ideas, that's fine by me," Mr Shorten told reporters.
"How good is it for the people here ... both sides of politics saying rescuing Kakadu is a priority?
"Of course the devil is always in the detail and I notice the government in their rush said they will rollout their promise over 10 years, Kakadu doesn't have 10 years to wait."
A Shorten Labor government would have a "front-end loaded" Kakadu plan that would be rolled out from its first budget, he said.
Jabiru residents and struggling local businesses were grateful their town would be saved but wanted the money rolled out as soon as possible so they could plan, Kakadu Crocodile Hotel general manager Chris Chaffe said.
Kakadu is about one-third the size of Tasmania, boasting Aboriginal rock art that is thousands of years old and rich flora and fauna.
Traditional owner Corben Mudjandi said the Mirrar people wanted to share their culture in a way that benefited everybody.
"Aboriginal culture is alive, it is very big, we have 60,000 years of culture," he told reporters.
"We used to have a lot more people visiting Kakadu, we can have more people come if we plan it properly."
Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Justin O'Brien, representing the Mirrar traditional owners, said the park was unloved and it was a "good news story" to get funding even more was needed to maintain it.