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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6246


Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (12:31): From the outset—through you, Minister—can I pass on my congratulations for what I thought was an outstanding summit last week in Cairns for the China-Australia Summit. However, there are more pressing matters that I need to deal with. Minister, I refer you to your government's decision to cut funding for Tourism Australia by $16.2 million in real terms. Minister, how will cutting funding for Tourism Australia help tourism operators facing a high Australian dollar, less flexible wages and a crippling carbon tax? Will the minister explain why he supports the government spending double the annual budget of Tourism Australia on providing pensioners with overpriced set-top boxes? Minister, do you consider the government's overpriced set-top box giveaway to be more important than bringing tourists to Australia? I refer the minister to the government's decision to cut funding for the Tourist Accommodation Survey. Will the minister explain how cutting the funding for tourism research will help hotel operators place their investment decisions?

I refer the minister to his answer to question in writing No. 58, where on 25 November 2010 the minister said there were nil corporate costs savings identified but not yet implemented in Tourism Australia. Minister, therefore, if there are no corporate cost savings in Tourism Australia, what marketing programs will Tourism Australia cut to meet its $6.2 million efficiency dividend? I refer the minister to his press release of 30 April 2010, where he detailed seven measures he was committed to implementing by 30 October this year. Minister, given that your department told the most recent Senate estimates that not a single one of your seven priority measures had been successfully implemented yet, how are you going to implement them with just 77 days to go? I should remind the minister that in the next 77 days, in order to meet the commitments he outlined in his press release, he needs to have chefs included in the skilled occupation migration list, implement national uniformity through responsible service of alcohol, seek the inclusion of tourism in the Commonwealth Enterprise Connect program, undertake destination management pilot projects—plural—to identify the gaps in research and dissemination, restructure the National Tourism and Aviation Advisory Committee, release the study of economic impacts of the carbon tax on tourism, and enhance Indigenous employment by scoping out opportunities for inclusion of tourism in existing government programs. I should note that, on the last point, the minister's department told Senate estimates: 'We are pretty light on in that area at the moment.' Does the minister agree with his department's assessment? Minister, it is going to be a very busy 77 days for you—or will you break your word again?

I refer the minister to the government's election commitments to deliver $40 million for the government's TQUAL Grants program, and $6 million for the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy. Will the minister confirm that after the election the government decided to deliver just half of these commitments in the current parliamentary term? I refer the minister to the government's decision to increase the passenger movement charge by 24 per cent, and note that the revenue from the passenger movement charge for the first time will exceed $800 million per annum, an increase from just over $400 million per annum when you were first elected to government. I note that the minister said when he was the shadow minister that the passenger movement charge was 'ripping off the travelling public', and then in his first budget as minister he wacked it up by 24 per cent. What kind of rip-off is that, Minister?

Will the minister explain to tourism operators why, at the very time the Gillard government are increasing tourism taxes to record levels, they are cutting back on passenger facilitation services at international airports by $34 million? Will the minister confirm that the government's decision will mean an additional 26-minute wait in the queue for Customs service for our international tourists when they arrive? Minister, what sort of welcome mat do you consider this to be for those coming to Australia?

Minister, I also want to place on the record, for future reference, that you have two of the largest income-producing portfolios for this nation: tourism, and resources and energy. Why are you allocated only 30 minutes in total for these two very large portfolios? Minister, if you cannot answer these questions here today, I ask you to respond in writing. If they are not responded to today or shortly, I will give you notice that they will be placed on the Notice Paper to make sure that we get an answer.