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Martin: where the bloody hell are ya?

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Mr Steven Ciobo MP Shadow Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors, Tourism and the Arts

As the decision-makers of Australian tourism debate the idea of an image makeover for the nation, Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson appears to be missing in action.

And when it came to a major announcement last week about streamlining travel between Australia and New Zealand, the Minister was again nowhere to be seen.

Shadow Tourism Minister Steven Ciobo said while one of the hot issues of the day was the government’s move to reshape Australia’s image to the world, one of the vital voices in the debate had been strangely silent.

“It was up to the Trade Minister to break the news to Australia today,” Mr Ciobo said. “And where was Minister Ferguson at last week’s announcement of the streamlining agreement with New Zealand? He left that one to the Prime Minister.”

“I think the sector must be asking ‘just where is the Tourism Minister on these important issues’?”

Mr Ciobo said the Rudd Labor Government had also flagged the possible axing of Australia’s $47 passenger movement charge (PMC) as part of the NZ initiative.

“And where did that go? Did the government get cold feet or was that just a cruel Labor joke on local tourism operators? I would challenge Minister Ferguson to tell tourism operators just when he now plans to cut the PMC.”

“Today has been one of the biggest days for tourism in some time - the nation has debated what image Australia should be projecting internationally, and Queensland unveils a major push to lure more tourists to the state, yet we’ve not heard a peep out of Minister Ferguson,” Mr Ciobo said.

“Tourism Australia’s forecasting arm has predicted Australia will in 2009 lose $2.2 billion in tourism spending, international visitor numbers will drop by 4 per cent, domestic tourism will drop by 3.9 per cent in the same period and more than 20,000 tourism jobs are already thought to have gone.”

“If there were ever a time to stand up and be an advocate for the industry, surely it’s today.”