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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2788

Mr REITH(12.52) —Mr Deputy Speaker, this is my first address to the House as the shadow Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism following the allocation of that portfolio to me last Friday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard)--

Mr McGauran —A very worthy appointment, too.

Mr REITH —I thank the honourable member for Gippsland for his support. He, of course, is one of my colleagues in Victoria. It is an honour to be a member of the Howard Liberal team and the portfolio does give me an opportunity to further some of my interests in this area. I, as a municipal councillor for a number of years, was a member and for a year a chairman of the Penguin Parade Committee of Management on Phillip Island in my electorate in Victoria. The penguin parade is reportedly the second or third largest international tourist attraction in Australia and I think that that experience will undoubtedly hold me in good stead. Over three generations members of my family have been actively involved in the tourist industry and so I think that I can claim that my interest has covered many years. The electorate of Flinders also has a tourist industry of considerable significance to my constituents. So the portfolio gives me an opportunity not only to further those interests as a local member but also to make a contribution at the national level.

Since 1984 and my election to the Parliament I have been secretary of the Opposition's tourism committee and as such I have been actively involved in the preparation of our excellent policy. There has been a lot of talk about where our tourism policies are. In fact in the tourism area and in many other areas our policies are already out in black and white for people to read, and people who have talked to me about our policy, I can report, have been very solidly in support of the sorts of directions indicated in it.

With regard to sport and recreation, I rowed inter-varsity, for my sins, when I was at Monash University, I am one of the Whip's 7.15 a.m. tennis players and, as a family man, my wife and I and our four sons are active members of our local pony club. I mention these things because I think that the Australian electorate is looking to the Liberal Party; it is looking to all the members of the parliamentary Liberal Party and in particular to the front bench members to see what our interests are, what our abilities are, and whether we can be in a position to take the reins of government after the next election. I do not make any claims about having made a lot of money in business, although I have had an involvement in business interests over a number of years including, as a solicitor, running my own small business in that capacity. But I do say that my interests in serving my country have arisen through my experience at the community level and through my belief in the importance of free enterprise, not as an end in itself but as a means to achieve the highest possible living standards for Australian individuals and families. The media like to talk about the simplistic terms of `dry' and `wet' and all manner of other terms, such as `old', `left' and whatever.

Mr Howe —It is a bit of a worry, though.

Mr REITH —It is no worry.

Mr Chynoweth —What are you doing now?

Mr REITH —I say to the honourable member for Dunkley that the fact is that no one knows what those terms mean. I do not think anybody in the electorate knows what they mean, and I certainly do not. I put those things aside because, and I know this applies to all of my colleagues in the Liberal Party, our primary concern is to get on with the job, not in any sort of dogmatic or ideological way but to get on with the job to see this country pick itself up by the socks and get going again.

In this tourism portfolio we have set down in black and white a policy which is innovative and exciting and which presents a range of practical solutions to many of our country's problems. I do not need to say, because I think many people realise it, that when a country has a national debt of $100,000m it really has some problems.

But let me just talk about some of the things in our policy in order to give people just a thumbnail sketch of the sorts of things that we are talking about in the Liberal Party and which I believe the electorate will be wanting to support and vote for at the next election. The policy says that the overriding requirement is to create and sustain an economic climate which will allow the tourism industry to grow and prosper. This incorporates policies designed to, amongst other things, lower personal taxes. Again I would have thought that there was support across the broad spectrum in Australia for the view that personal income tax rates are too high.

A second highlight is our aim to work on and reduce inflation and interest rates. No one in his right mind would say that interest rates in Australia are at an acceptable level. They are not; they are too high, and we need policies which have not been forthcoming from this Government to reduce interest rates. We need to restore the rule of law in industrial relations and introduce a more flexible labour market. The term `flexible' is one that even some of the Australian Labor Party spokespeople have picked up in recent times, although of course they have done nothing about it.

In regard to specific features of our tourism policy, we start by saying that we need a stronger role for private enterprise, for the private sector. We need to abolish the capital gains tax and fringe benefits tax, and restore tax deductibility for legitimate entertainment expenses. We need to have a more flexible work environment to increase jobs and to reduce on-costs. We will continue strong support for the Australian Tourist Commission. We will look to policies to introduce more competition and services in the air, including more inbound airline services and charter flights. One other policy which I think is very important is better tourism training opportunities in schools and all higher and further educational establishments. Just while mentioning that, I see that the Australian tourism industry and a couple of other groups have been working on the establishment of a chair in tourism at the James Cook University of North Queensland, and that is the sort of measure which I think is important and which we in the Liberal Party support.

When one looks at the tourism portfolio and at recreation and sport, one finds that whilst it is fair and reasonable to give credit where credit is due, the fact is that in that portfolio there have been many missed opportunities and we have seen a Minister who, whilst being prepared to put on a friendly face to the respective groups involved with his portfolio, has failed totally to address some of the major issues which affect all Australians, not just the tourist industry but across the board.

It is interesting to go back over as I have been doing, having received this shadow portfolio, some of the things that the Minister said and recognised before he was a Minister. There is nothing like the honesty of what a person says before he gets into office. There was an absolute furore in the Labor Party in 1983, when, in regard to an election promise made when talking to the Australian tourist industry, the present Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 22 February 1983 as follows:

Labor's shadow Minister for Tourism, Mr John Brown, called yesterday for a reduction in outrageous penalty rates which he said were having a horrendous effect on the Australian tourist industry.

I think he was right. He was absolutely right, and he knows it. But, boy oh boy, did he back off when the trade unions came in to sort him out. The Australian newspaper of the next day I thought had a very good editorial because it considered the Minister's statement and said that it would be a test to see whether the Labor Party in government would put the national interest first or whether it would bow to trade union demands. Needless to say, a couple of days later there was an article in one of the daily papers referring to the fact that the Minister had gone bush. He had gone bush; he had been told: `Listen, we do not want to hear that sort of thing. That is not acceptable to our trade union masters. You go and disappear so that the problem will disappear.' Of course the problem has not disappeared and that is one of the many areas left undone. Labor has failed in a situation because the Minister has failed to approach an essential issue.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Rocher) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.