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Wednesday, 29 August 1973
Page: 542


Mr STEWART (Lang) (Minister for Tourism and Recreation) ; - It is a great honour and immense pleasure to speak on the first Labor Budget in 24 years. Honourable members and the general public have had a chance to digest, evaluate, praise or criticise the various Budget decisions according to their beliefs or their vested interests. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson), who has just sat down, gave a classic example of the sectional, narrow minded interests of the Australian Country Party. The bovine, bucolic members of the Country Party have really been shaken out of their lethargy by the decisions taken in this Budget. For 23 years they acted as barnacles on the ship of state. They blackmailed the Liberal vested city interests of the previous Government into granting concessions that should never have been granted and which we, in our first Budget, had to take away. This is one country. It is Australia. It does not exist only of the farmers and the farmers' friends. There are people throughout the length and breadth of this land who deserve the same consideration as the people in the country have been receiving for a number of years. This is what is worrying the Country Party. For the first time in 24 years members of the Country Party have to stand and prove that the concessions that they want for country people are really deserved.

I am convinced that this is not only a good Budget but it is also a very Australian Budget, possibly the first in many a long year which unashamedly sets out to protect our national interests ahead of any others - the first which, so to say, is designed to allow Australians to interfere in their own domestic affairs. The central theme of the Budget is the Government's very explicit concern with the quality of life. Whether one examines the fields of health, housing, education, social welfare, conservation, urban development or repatriation, one will have little trouble detecting evidence of our ambition and aim to improve the lot of our people not just in material terms but in every way.

This brings me to my own portfolio, the related wings of which are ideal to cater for the leisure and pleasure of man. I hope our society has come a long way since the midVictorian days when pleasure was automatically equated with sin - when the average working man's only privilege was the generous allowance that he could work a 70-hour week. What is recreation? To me it covers an enormously wide field, embracing just about anything and everything that is not connected with one's work. My responsibility, however, is largely limited to physical recreation, be it active or passive. Some of my colleagues in the Cabinet have the specific task of caring for the needs of literature, performing and fine arts, television, and so on. Between us, covering the entire spectrum, lies the elusive essence of man's leisure time recreation.

My request for allocation in the Budget was a deliberately modest one. As a new department, with an extremely small staff, we have our plate full with schemes and projects. It is not an underestimation of the tremendous importance and scope of this subject that makes me feel content, for the time being anyway, with the $6.2m given for recreation. Some people may think that this sum is too generous, that recreation and sport should be left in their prehistoric form, that spending all this money on the recreational needs of Australians is reckless. The allocation amounts to about 50c for every man, woman and child in Australia, compared with $3.24 a head in Holland, $2.40 in France, and $2.3 1 in West Germany.

It never fails to amaze me how miserly we have been in the past towards recreation and sport. I find it almost miraculous that those at the receiving end of this treatment neve staged an open rebellion against this tightfistedness. I am not trying to find comparisons with other expenditures; I am not claiming that recreation or, for that matter, tourist promotion is more important or less

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important than any other community outlet. But permit me to draw your attention to some visible proofs of this country's wealth from which a small segment will now go to a silent majority - that is, the hundreds of thousands of people interested in physical recreation, sport and tourism. Compare our allocation with the $15m which our Government was asked to provide to help the estimated 25,000 vagrants and homeless in our midst. Better still, project our modest share against the backdrop of $70m which the State of New South Wales alone must spend annually on the treatment and punishment of alcoholics - about $800 a head. Some people begrudge a paltry 50c a head for recreation and sport. Surely it is time we got our bearings right and paid attention to the needs of a long-suffering and remarkably patient majority who in the past tolerated large scale neglect. lt is my intention to create, by co-opting the best brains available in this country, a comprehensive recreation system which will provide creative leisure opportunities for all Australians. Without going into technical details, let me say that this system will embrace, perhaps at the extreme ends, the Olympic champion as well as the elderly and the afflicted; it will take into account the needs of the super athlete as well as the housewife who may want to spend her few leisure hours trying her hand at pottery.

The $3,215,000 we have for the construction of recreation and sporting facilities will go towards projects in areas of the greatest need. The Sim allocated to aid amateur sport will meet the most urgent requirements of national sporting organisations. The multipurpose community recreation centres will enable tens of thousands to find a creative outlet for their leisure time. The grant to our sportsmen and women will enable them to compete with the rest of the world on more equal terms. Both fields have been neglected in the past; both deserve a better deal in the future. I make no apologies for either. We have all rejoiced many times in the past when an Australian sportsman or woman scored some brilliant win in top international company. How many of you ever stopped to wonder at what sacrifice that success was achieved? Until now we have only identified ourselves with our sporting heroes; from now we are going to help them as well.

With tight housekeeping management we will also find ways of helping others involved in the field of recreation. The allocation for national fitness goes up from $600,000 to $lm, with the bulk of the increase paying for the construction of sports training facilities at existing national fitness camps. And I challenge one father or mother to stand up anywhere and claim that this money will be wasted. Our Government's concern for young Australians is shown in the approval of various new programs, including $250,000 to be made available to national organisations working with young people. On top of the annual grant of $50,000 to surf life saving associations and the Royal Life Saving Society, an additional $100,000 will be made available to surf life saving associations for the purchase of rescue equipment, on a $1 for $1 basis with the movement itself. Once again I challenge anybody who ever set foot on a beach to question the wisdom or the need for this long overdue grant,

I do not wish to go on too long about this vast subject. Our Government is the first to recognise the absolute right of Australian people to recreational and sporting means and facilities - and the first to do something about it. Our present program is a humble start, even if it represents an historical breakthrough. As the number of leisure hours increases in society, as it surely will, recreational needs for the community will also rise sharply. I can assure the House that I will be requesting far greater amounts in the 1974-75 Budget.

Now I want to switch to tourism which, under a broad interpretation could very well be part of recreation. For what is tourism if not a form of enjoyment - escape from the routine, and one type of recreation anyway? Tourism can make an important contribution to the solution of many problems facing our economy. It can create new job opportunities and it can help in the development of many regional areas. At present the Australian tourist industry's income is estimated at $2,400m or 8 per cent of our gross national income. It is a growth industry, with a proven capacity to double in size every 7 or 8 years, with this growth directly related to the increased leisure and rising personal disposable income of Australians.

The ' Australian travel industry directly employs at least 10 per cent of the work force, mainly in transportation and accommodation. More importantly, as a service industry, it is labour-intensive; direct labour costs range from 26 per cent to 35 per cent of the total costs.. The industry is a major employer of female labour. In hotels and restaurants, women represent 60 per cent of total employees compared with the national average of 38 per cent. One must also stress the multiplier effect of tourism, especially on rural communities, compounding the travellers' spending. While this multiplier process is still the subject of some debate and speculation, a recent Canadian survey estimated that each $1 of travel receipts contributed $2.43 to the gross national product.

The tourist industry is generally regarded as the pleasure industry, though not always by those engaged in it, for their return on invested capital, just over 2 per cent, is lower than in perhaps any other type of private enterprise. Many minds are obviously confused when we speak of help to the tourist industry. They visualise large handouts to multi-millionaire entrepreneurs. That is not what it is all about. Just as in the field of recreation and sport, in physical fitness and physical education, we want to help Australians to enrich their lives. We want to make it possible, indeed, highly desirable for them to travel all over Australia, to explore this great country, to learn about our history and, in the process, to enjoy a well earned holiday in decent resorts, motels, caravan parks or whatever takes their fancy. All our efforts to improve the status, capability and scope of the hotel industry are made with this genuine aim in mind. But it just does not happen on its own. Some steps have to be taken to shake up the industry, to encourage it, help it if you like, so that those millions of tourists can benefit.

The Government has announced a new assistance scheme to the tourist industry, in order to develop our natural and historical attractions and to promote a greater volume of travel within Australia. We believe these measures will be successful. We feel the industry will respond. The sum of $1,750,000 will be allocated in the form of grants to Australiana or pioneer settlements, the preservation of historic sites and buildings, fauna sanctuaries and other projects. And let me add proudly that this is $1,500,000 more than the previous Government, with its alleged sentimental attachment to our past, bothered to make available. We will not insist in future that these projects qualifying for grants have an international appeal - an elusive term in the first place - or that the States contribute on a dollar for dollar basis. To strengthen our campaign in the promotion of domestic tourism, we have decided to grant $320,000 to the Australian Tourist Commission, until now charged only with the task of our overseas tourist affairs, to complement and support the various promotional activities of the States. But that is not all. For a Party allegedly against private enterprise and initiative, we have decided to inject capital into the trade by offering Commonwealth Development Bank loans for projects in selected areas, and to guarantee tourist accommodation loans through the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. I realise that by some overseas standards these measures may again be modest. But I want to emphasise that these are the first incentives the Australian tourist industry has ever received.

Leaving the domestic scene for the moment, let me now turn to international tourism, a major factor in world trade and a vital part of national economies. Our share of the world total is not quite one percent, but this can and should be increased. At present our economy does not depend on this foreign revenue, but one day it may. Overseas tourist promotion is not something you can turn on and off. At present our tourist imbalance stands at $220m a year and is expected to climb to at least $350m in the next few years. This ever widening gap between income gained from overseas tourists and money spent by Australians on overseas holidays is big enough to cause concern to any economy. There are many measures which will be necessary to attract more overseas tourists to this country. Some, we believe, will result from our active help to the industry, in the establishment of new resorts, more international class accommodation and services. While Australia's appeal as an international tourist destination rests largely on our remote area attractions, only a small percentage of overseas visitors travels extensively beyond Sydney and Melbourne. One reason for this is the high cost of air travel in Australia. To encourage greater volume of air travel, domestic carriers in recent years have introduced some incentive fares. The 15 per cent discount on economy return fares for off-peak travel which began last June is another important step in making air travel reasonably priced. The 30 per cent reduction on economy fares for North American tourists for travel in Australia over 1000 miles should encourage more extended tours to take in attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef, Central Australia, Tasmania and others. But there is still scope for new initiatives in domestic aviation to make air travel available to wider market sections and to carry out the Government's election undertaking to provide holidays within Australia competitive with overseas travel.

All I have just said is the simple and logical extension of our Government's policy to enrich the life of every Australian. We are in the enrichment business. Both recreation and tourism help you to regenerate your run down batteries, to improve your health and to enjoy your life more. Can there be loftier aims? I firmly believe that our Government has started the exciting task of redesigning life for our people in accordance with the rapidly changing world trends and demands. We are hopeful of producing a more humane society, restoring some of the almost forgotten values and virtues which make life worthwhile a renaissance of the human spirit in the last quarter of the 20th century. I would like to hope, that by ascertaining the recreational needs of our people and then catering for them, I will be able to play my part in this.

Suspension of Standing Orders







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