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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20517

Mr BALDWIN (3:14 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Small Business and Tourism. Would the minister update the House on any recent measures designed to boost the Australian tourism industry?

Dr Emerson —One bookend to the other.

The SPEAKER —I suspect the member for Rankin has forgotten the status in the House that the member for Grayndler had earlier.

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Small Business and Tourism) —I thank the member for Paterson for his question and congratulate him on encouraging Virgin to fly from Newcastle to Melbourne direct at fares as low as $69. It is just a shame no-one in the Labor Party was lobbying Virgin. Well done to the member for Paterson!

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Holt is out of his seat! The minister has the call. The member for Hunter!

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith chooses deliberately to simply ignore the chair. The member for Corio has enjoyed a great deal of licence throughout the entirety of question time.

Mr Gavan O'Connor —I didn't say a thing.

The SPEAKER —The member for Corio is warned! The minister has the call. He will be heard in silence.

Mr HOCKEY —There was a great and positive announcement from the Australian government this morning: we are going to increase the duty-free allowance for every traveller to and from Australia from $400 to $900. That will be warmly welcomed by travellers—by the more than three million Australians who travel every year and the nearly five million international travellers who come to Australia every year. We are going to more than double the general concession for adults from $400 to $900 and for minors from $200 to $450. We are also going to double the alcohol allowance, so that now people can bring into Australia 2.25 litres of alcohol—that is, three bottles of wine or two 1.125 litre bottles of alcohol. It is terrific for families, because it means they can—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER —The minister has the call. The member for Bendigo! The member for Oxley!

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER —It is quite obvious that any warning from the chair is immediately ignored. The minister has the call. He will be heard in silence, or I will deal instantly with those who defy the chair.

Mr HOCKEY —That is a great initiative for families that travel, because now the average family of four has a duty-free allowance of up to $3,000 to spend. It will be warmly welcomed by the various parts of the tourism and transport industry. It means a significant windfall for the airports, when they have been doing it pretty tough. They rely heavily on duty-free—

The SPEAKER —The member for Hunter will excuse himself from the chamber!

The member for Hunter then left the chamber.

Mr HOCKEY —Duty-free is an important part of the revenue for airports around Australia. This is a more than doubling of the allowable duty-free expense. Therefore, they will be big beneficiaries. A number of small retailers are also going to benefit from this, and airlines are of course going to benefit, because the airlines have onboard duty-free. This is a substantial injection of cash into the Australian transport industry.

There is one little catch: we need the states to sign up to the deal now, because there is a GST implication. The Assistant Treasurer has today written to the premiers, asking them under the GST agreement to sign up to this deal. We want the deal in place by the beginning of the Rugby World Cup, when so many people are going to be coming here. We want people to be able to spend more on Australian made souvenirs when they come out for the Rugby World Cup. It is important that the state Labor premiers sign up.

The member for Werriwa is always keen to pass commentary. Whether it be a ringside commentary on the Carr versus Singo bout or whether it be on some other event, he is always keen to pass commentary. But, when it comes to getting Labor's mates in the states to lift their pens and do something for Australians or Australian small business, you can never rely on the Labor Party to do anything. Here is a challenge for the member for Hotham and the member for Werriwa: instead of providing a running commentary on Bob Carr, now is your chance to do something for Australian business. Get out there and get the Labor states to sign off on a deal that is going to be a significant windfall for Australian travellers and Australian small business.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.