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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 593


Mr BIDGOOD (3:14 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Tourism. Would the minister outline for the House the benefits of the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan for the tourism industry?


Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) —I thank the member for Dawson for the question. As a member representing a key regional seat, he understands the importance of tourism to areas such as the Whitsundays, Mackay and Bowen, which featured so prominently in the film Australia. He also understands that the tourism industry is doing it tough at the moment as a result of the global financial crisis. It is interesting to note that the World Tourism Organisation has predicted that global tourism this year will decline for the first time since the Second World War. That is important because both international and domestic tourism are important to Australia. The government is about doing everything we can to try and assist the tourism industry in Australia to get through these tough times. That means we have to continue to invest in overseas markets so as to maintain a market presence. The industry understands that if we walk away it is going to be tougher to get back into the international tourism sector. It is also important that we understand that 75 per cent of the tourism industry in Australia is of a domestic nature. It is about time people on the other side understood that tourism is about competing for the discretionary dollar.

I was pleased to note in the Herald Sun today an article including the member for McEwen speaking out against the opposition’s determination to bomb this package in their party room yesterday. While she might have described their opposition as political suicide, I hope that in her contribution to the party debate yesterday she was actually thinking about the national interest. The debate about the Nation Building and Jobs Plan is a debate about what is in Australia’s national interest. When you think about Australia’s national interest, you should actually think about those small business operators and the 480,000 Australians directly employed in the tourism industry in Australia. You should also remember that a lot of those people are actually employed in small businesses in rural and regional Australia. Unlike the opposition, they understand that the Nation Building and Jobs Plan builds on the 2008 Economic Security Package of the Australian government, which was about putting more dollars into the pockets of Australian consumers to maintain employment. Small business operators are concerned about cash flow, and putting dollars in the hands of consumers is about putting cash through those operators’ tills, which may assist them to take up the government’s initiative particularly aimed at small business and claim the additional 30 per cent deduction for eligible assets to assist them in this tough economic environment.

For those reasons, I think it is about time the opposition joined with the tourism industry and gave the government the support it deserves for trying to do the right thing in Australia’s national interest. In that context, I refer to solid support given to the Australian government in its endeavours. I refer, for example, to a statement by Matt Hingerty, a key tourism representative known well to the member for North Sydney. Mr Hingerty said on Tuesday in response to the government’s package: ‘The timing of the cash bonuses was well positioned just ahead of the school holidays and Easter break.’ He said that because he understands that there are 121 million days of accumulated annual leave in Australia. He understands that these payments link up with the Australian government’s endeavours with key employer organisations such as ACCI to encourage Australian workers to have a holiday.


Mr Ciobo interjecting


Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —It is about time the member for Moncrieff stopped talking down the Australian tourism industry and stopped talking about a crisis. It is also about time members on the other side of the House joined with members such as the member for Dawson, the member for Lyons, the member for Leichhardt, members on the Central Coast and members in Wollongong and Newcastle—key tourism areas—and supported this package. Perhaps the members for Wide Bay, Herbert, Kalgoorlie, Flinders and Forrest, for example, should start thinking about key tourism areas such as Noosa, Townsville, Broome, Mornington Peninsula and Margaret River and join with the member for McEwen, because she understands the importance of tourism to the Yarra Valley. If when they return to their electorates this weekend they go and put their feet under the table of a local restaurant or cafe, they should think about what Peter Doyle, the President of the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association, and John Hart, its CEO, said in a media release on Tuesday of this week:

The stimulus package also contained a number of cash payments that will see their way into the hands of restaurant consumers.

They went on to say:

… consumers now spend nearly 10% of their household income on meals out (on average) and these additional payments, which will come just prior to the next school holidays, will be spent in restaurants and cafes.

But perhaps more importantly—because this debate is about the national interest and keeping Australians in employment—they concluded with this remark:

The hospitality industry is a very labour intensive industry. Spending in restaurants is a very efficient way to create or maintain employment.

I leave the opposition with that thought. Back a winner—back the national interest, not the opportunism of the Leader of the Opposition.