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Tuesday, 25 June 1996
Page: 2712

Mr STEPHEN SMITH(9.41 p.m.) —The fact that the coalition committed itself to extending the EMDG scheme fully to the tourism industry was made in its policy documents, as I have previously referred to. This was also the subject of quite intensive publicity in the course of the election campaign. As a result of statements made by Senator Parer on 14 February, a report by Steve Lewis in the Australian Financial Review headed `Opposition rules out a bed tax' states:

Tourism operators will be able to take full advantage of the Export Market Development Grants scheme under a Coalition initiative aimed at boosting the status of the tourism industry.

At a cost of $5 million a year, the Coalition plans to do away with a highly contentious provision under the EMDG scheme by raising the grant rate available to operators from 25 cents in the

dollar to the 50 cents available to other export industries.

The member for Cunningham (Mr Martin) has given the House the courtesy of putting this amendment before the House in its precise terms. We hope that those opposite take the opportunity of voting for it.

We find in the Canberra Times of 14 February, under the big banner headline `Howard woos tourism: industry tax break incentive', a report which states:

The Coalition tourism policy, launched by the shadow minister, Warwick Parer, . . . The policy would also make tourism operators eligible to receive the full benefit of Export Market Development Grants.

It goes on:

Successful EMDG tourism applicants under us will get a full 50c in the dollar refund on international promotion the same way as any other applicant from any other industry.

`Howard woos tourism'. We hope that the member for Cunningham's amendment woos those members opposite to vote for that which they went to the election with.

I am pleased that the Minister for Trade, Mr Fischer, has joined us. In the previous parliament, on 27 June, in the consideration in detail stage of the Export Market Development Grants Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1995, Mr Fischer, then Leader of the National Party and shadow minister for trade—now the Leader of the National Party and Minister for Trade—had this to say—

Mr Marek —A good leader for the Nationals.

Mr STEPHEN SMITH —A good leader pro tem. I am sure the Minister for Transport and Regional Development (Mr Sharp) will have something to say and do about that in the not too distant future. If he doesn't, the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) surely will. On 27 June last year, the then shadow minister for trade said:

We are seeking to give the tourism industry a fair go. We do not want the tourism industry to be subject to the 25c or 25 per cent rate; we want it to be subject to the standard rate that is applicable to other industries under the export market development grants scheme. We want that reflected in a sensible approach to the amendments that are before the chamber at this time. Single-service tourist providers are entitled to promote their products worldwide. I do not think the government would disagree with that. The opposition says that they are entitled to do that with the application of the standard rate of assistance under the EMDG scheme.

Minister, now is your chance—vote for it. You were handcuffed to it at the election, committed to it in the parliament last term. Now is your big chance—support the amendment moved by the member for Cunningham. It was not as if Mr Fischer was by himself. He was not out on a limb on this one. On the same day the member for Pearce, Mrs Moylan, the then shadow minister for small business, now the Minister for Family Services, said:

The bill we are debating today proposes that the export market development grants scheme be extended for a fifth time, from 1994-95 to 1998-99. The coalition will support this extension but not before proposing some very sensible and important amendments to the government's bill to, as usual, improve the outcome for the business community and, I might say, deliver fairness and equity. I think it is quite wrong to make benefits available to some sections of the commercial community and not make them available to others. In this case, the tourism industry will miss out unless the government takes notice of what the coalition has said in relation to this and accepts the coalition's amendments to fully include the tourism industry.

I hope I see my neighbour in Western Australia the member for Pearce come into this House on the division, together with the Minister for Trade, and vote for the amendment moved by the member for Cunningham to extend the EMDG scheme to the tourism industry at the full rate, as they promised the tourism industry, and the Australian people, in the course of the election campaign.