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Friday, 18 June 2004
Page: 24278


Senator O'BRIEN (2:34 PM) —by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 4232:

(1) Clause 12, page 8 (line 23), omit “4”, substitute “5”.

(2) Clause 14, page 9 (line 24), at the end of subclause (1), add:

; (n) Australian indigenous tourism or culture.

Through the white paper the tourism industry has identified that currently Australia meets less than half of the international demand for Indigenous tourism experiences. This represents an enormous forgone opportunity not only for the nation as a whole but also, particularly, for Australia's Indigenous people. Tourism has great potential to be used by Indigenous Australians as a tool to help them raise their levels of economic independence and social wellbeing. This is particularly so in remote and regional areas, where poverty and mortality have during the eight years of this government reached levels worse than those of Third World nations, including India.

In spite of the fact that the industry recognises the potential for Indigenous tourism to grow, and despite the benefits it can bring to Indigenous communities and the opportunities to showcase the wonders of our land from an Indigenous perspective, these bills currently have no requirement that the board of Tourism Australia contain knowledge and experience of Australian Indigenous tourism or culture. This is a great shame. To ensure that Indigenous Australian tourism has at least a fair chance to develop, Labor has proposed—and, I understand, the government will accept—an amendment to address this. Labor wants to ensure that industry expertise in Australian Indigenous tourism and culture has a seat in the boardroom of Tourism Australia.

It is pleasing that, after extensive negotiations, Minister Hockey has indicated the government will support Labor's amendment. Consequential to our aim to have Indigenous tourism and culture represented on the board of Tourism Australia, we also propose an amendment that will increase the size of the board by one. Again, to his credit, Minister Hockey has agreed. I understand that Senator Allison, on behalf of Senator Ridgeway, will move to increase the board by still another member. This will effectively deliver the outcomes for the environmental management and Indigenous tourism and cultural experience we would all like to see represented on the board and does so in a manner more consistent with the rest of the bill. I am pleased the Democrats have agreed only to pursue that amendment and I will be pleased to support that amendment when it is moved.

It is a very happy coincidence, as far as I am concerned, that I am the shadow minister for reconciliation and Indigenous affairs as well as the shadow minister for tourism, regional services and territories. Apparently Senator Abetz thinks it is a demotion to have those important portfolios. I do not and I will be very happy to have those portfolios—in government and hopefully in cabinet—when Labor wins the next election. But do not let us presume on the Australian electorate at this stage. We are here to deal with a piece of legislation. It is easy to have cheap shots during debates in this chamber. I would rather see this legislation passed on the basis of a cooperative approach. But if the debate needs to, then I will attend to other matters as they arise.