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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 14043

Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (10:06): I raise an issue of national importance that will affect our national interest. By that I mean the tourism and hospitality industry, which employs nearly one million Australians and produces $95 billion of annual spend towards our Australian economy. I refer to the headlines in the papers over the last couple of days—that is, the breakdown of the partnership between Tourism Australia and Qantas, and the withdrawal of sponsorship which amounts to some $50 million.

I am not here to champion the cause of Tourism Australia or Qantas, or to take any side in this conflict other than that of the tourism industry as a whole. The tourism industry is one that is built on perception more than reality. A breakdown, public fight or dispute will affect the operations of our tourism industry at a time when our peak tourism marketing season is getting underway, with shows like G'day LA and G'day USA, and the ATE in Sydney being planned and progressed, to name but a few. What people need is certainty in direction, not disputes. People are starting to work out whether to tag their brochures, their promotions, with Tourism Australia or Qantas; what will they do?

So today I call on Minister Ferguson to immediately intervene in the dispute. As the former head of the ACTU, he knows—like Bob Hawke, his predecessor, who acted in this way—that the relevant people must be brought to the table today. Speed is of the essence to minimise the impact and any damage. To do otherwise would be acting against the national interest. Tourism is a key employer, particularly in rural and regional Australia, and the flow-on effect of this will be very broad. I say to Minister Ferguson: you cannot sit back and allow the situation to unravel. You are the minister; your sole responsibility in the tourism industry is for Tourism Australia and the promotion of Australia to our international markets. Minister, we will support you in these endeavours to bring about a positive result for our tourist industry. If you do not sit down with these people, Minister, and the situation breaks down even further, we will see the effects of this both in the short term and in the long term on our inbound tourism markets. It will be reflected in sales, because there will be a lack of confidence in our product and our ability to deliver.

The final question, of course, is: Minister, given you are responsible for Tourism Australia, what will you do to fill the $50 million void that will occur because of this breakdown in the partnership between Tourism Australia and Qantas? Minister Ferguson, I call on you today to act, to intervene and to get the parties together. (Time expired)