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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2823

Mr PETER FISHER —by leave-The National Party of Australia acknowledges the significance of the tourist industry to the Australian economy and the role of thousands of small and large entrepreneurs across the nation whose personal contributions and endeavours have provided a basic structure from which the major springboard for the expansion of the tourist industry in recent years has developed. I am charitable enough to acknowledge the role and enthusiasm of the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) in this expansion. He has given the industry a high profile in many ways, some of which I will not mention. Particularly with the benefits of the sick dollar and with the destruction of our economy by his colleagues, the tourist industry has used its opportunities to attract a massive growth in the numbers of international visitors. With estimates of two million visitors next year, this gives cause for optimism and opportunity.

I would like to mention very briefly the role of our State governments which, to varying degrees, have also been part of this expansion. Time does not allow me to detail their initiatives. The co-operative role of Western Australia ensured that the major challenge of hosting the America's Cup competition had a successful outcome. Anyone visiting Fremantle would have been justifiably proud of this feature world event, despite the loss by Australia. I think that the staging of the America's Cup competition will have a lasting flow-on, not just for Western Australia but for the whole of the nation. Gaining the Grand Prix for South Australia has been a major achievement. Queensland, in staging Expo' 88 in co-operation with the Commonwealth, will complement our bicentennial celebrations. But we should abhor the bigotry and inward-looking attitude of most of our State Labor governments in not fully backing this exposition, with its opportunities for the promotion of Australian industry, trade and tourism.

The Minister's statement also referred to the increase of 3 per cent in domestic tourism. This is of considerable benefit; but again, unfortunately, it reflects the deterioration in the value of our currency and reduced living standards which do not allow people to travel overseas to the extent that they have in the past. It therefore follows, though, that the major growth in the domestic area has been away from recognised resorts and more towards caravaning and camping holidays. The Minister, of course, mentioned many of the great attractions in this country. With so many of my colleagues from the National Party here in the chamber, I must point out that rural electorates have tourism as a large component of their economy.

Mr Braithwaite —Particularly in the Whitsundays.

Mr PETER FISHER —In my electorate of Mallee only agriculture exceeds the benefits of the tourist dollar. The honourable member for Dawson mentions the great attractions in the Whitsunday area.

Mr Blunt —And the Tweed Valley.

Mr PETER FISHER —Yes, and the Tweed Valley. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) could talk about Fraser Island. My colleague the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and I share one of Australia's great wetland areas in the Murray Valley. Of course, we could go on and on talking about electorates all over the countryside.

Mr Conquest —The Barrier Reef and Noosa.

Mr PETER FISHER —I hear an honourable member trying to tell us about the great attractions on the Sunshine Coast, including Noosa. Time does not allow me to go through all the attractions, even those in your electorate, Mr Deputy Speaker, where there are some outstanding man-made attractions. In the few minutes available to me let me make some positive suggestions that will ensure not just that the Australian tourist industry's growth occurs because of the slide in our economy into banana republic status but also that it can be consolidated as gains for the future.

The Minister raised the matter of the lack of initiative of our travel agents and airlines in arranging package deals to suit overseas travellers. This is obviously a major area that has to be tackled. I believe that the Government has a major role in this, as it has a major role in meeting the urgent need to upgrade airport facilities and efficiency, particularly at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. Sydney Airport can barely cope with our domestic travellers and sadly gives arriving tourists and business people a bad first impression of our country. Privatisation of many of our airports would increase competition and consumers could only be the beneficiaries. It should also be recognised that increased capacity for international airlines could add millions of dollars to our tourist earnings. This market today is too highly regulated to cope with peak traffic requirements in particular.

The Paul Hogan campaign, of course, has been highly commended, as it should be. It was an outstanding success, but its effects should not be limited by any refusal to allow extra capacity to accommodate the growing tide of tourists-particularly American tourists. I will refer just briefly to the industry initiative in establishing a chair of tourism at the James Cook University. This will give great access to highly trained professional managers and planners and provide for the research that is so essential at a time of growth and potential in our tourist industry. The centre for studies into travel and tourism, which is an excellent initiative, will complement the expansion of many of our education programs, particularly in the technical and further education area with its hospitality and tourism courses which are designed to heighten awareness of career opportunities and the skills needed in the tourist industry. This is one area in which the Minister should ensure that full time TAFE courses are available, with national standards and awards to enable a greater recognition of the qualifications obtained there.

I intended to mention the tourism overseas promotion scheme-the TOP scheme-but the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Reith) has adequately covered it. He criticised the Government for failing to carry out the initiatives it promised. As the Minister said in his statement, our people, beaches and lifestyle are the same today as they were a decade ago, before Australia gained its reputation as an international tourist destination. It will not be easy to hold this competitive edge if-and hopefully very shortly-our economy improves. We must look at our restrictive work practices that penalise industry and penalise further employment in the tourist industry. We should also recognise that the Government has taken many initiatives that disadvantage the full potential of this industry-the fringe benefits tax, the entertainment tax and, of course, the capital gains tax that has been mentioned by the honourable member for Flinders.

It is appropriate that this Parliament has devoted some of its time to the tourist industry and to the many opportunities that still wait to be tapped. I emphasise that the private sector is waiting out there to tap these opportunities, given further encouragement by the Government.