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Hockey fiddles while tourism burns.



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Gavan O'Connor MP MEMBER FOR CORIO

SHADOW MINISTER FOR TOURISM SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL SERVICES, TERRITORIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT

30 April 2003

HOCKEY FIDDLES WHILE TOURISM BURNS

Joe Hockey is in a state of denial about the crisis in Australia’s $17 billion inbound tourism industry which is reminiscent of former Tourism Minister Jackie Kelly’s glib remark that the Ansett collapse was just a blip.

Following three days of talks in Sydney and Brisbane this week with tourism leaders and operators, I have been left in no doubt whatsoever that Australia’s tourism industry is in a real state of crisis. Urgent action to lift the tax burden off the industry and to stimulate demand is absolutely necessary.

Industry sources have confirmed that forward bookings are down by 40% on average and down by 70% in the key Japanese market.

SARS is the sixth substantial shock that tourism has received in the past three years. SARS follows hot on the heals of the impact of September 11, the Bali bombing, the Ansett Collapse, the regional effect of drought and bushfire, and the war in Iraq.

Industry leaders and tourism operators tell me that there have already been significant belt tightening and staff reductions in the industry, with more to follow.

As a matter of urgency the Minister ought to immediately adopt Labor’s suggestions to: • Abolish the $13 million a month Ansett ticket tax • Make a commitment that there will be no further increases in the passenger

movement charge • Act quickly to stimulate demand in key markets • Provide short-term assistance to hard-pressed small operators using the model often applied following natural disasters • Call an urgent meeting of the Australian Tourism Ministers Council to ensure

a coordinated national approach to the crisis.

The Howard Government has been over-collecting on tourism and transport levies and charges, especially the Ansett levy, at a time when the industry is in a state of crisis and operators are feeling the pinch.

In denying the crisis in the industry, Joe Hockey has now become the new Jackie Kelly joke of Australian tourism.

Contact Bernie Eades on 0418 523 820