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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12826

Mr BAIRD (3:27 PM) —I seek leave to amend my motion as it stands so that it reads `a seven per cent increase' instead of `a 10 per cent increase'.

Leave granted.

Mr BAIRD —I move:

That the House:

(1) commends the Government for its efforts in promoting domestic and international tourism which has resulted in a 7% increase in international visitors during the last 12 month;

(2) notes the significance to the economy of the number of jobs created by tourism; and

(3) notes the foreign exchange earnings resulting from international visitor travel to Australia.

There is no doubt that we are in the golden era of Australian tourism. At the beginning of the new millennium, the industry is well placed as the largest employer in the country and the second largest earner of foreign exchange earnings. Let us consider how far this industry has come. In 1975, we had half a million international visitors to this country. By 1985, the number had shifted to one million. In 1988, it was two million. By the time we finish this year, we are expecting 4.5 million international visitors to have come to Australia. There are now close to 700,000 jobs in Australia provided directly by tourism and some 300,000 provided indirectly. Foreign exchange earnings amount to some $16 billion, and domestic tourism is worth some $43 billion. There is no doubt that this is one of the most significant contributing industries to Australia's growth and development.

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 3.6 million international visitors came to Australia during the 10 months to October 1999. If we extrapolate that number forward to the end of the year, it is 4.5 million, which will be an outstanding result and certainly the largest number of international visitors that this country has seen. If we take it that some 70 per cent of these visitors will visit Sydney, we have almost the population of Sydney dupli cated each year in terms of international visitors. This represents an increase in international visitor arrivals of seven per cent compared with the same period last year. Even more encouraging are the increases in visitor nights and visitor expenditure.

The Bureau of Tourism Research's international visitors survey estimated that visitor nights totalled 104 million for the year ending June 1999—an increase of 13 per cent over the year ending June 1998. The total expenditure by visitors in Australia for the year ending June 1999 increased by almost 19 per cent over the previous 12 months. That, of course, is the most relevant measure because it is not just visitors but the yield that we get and the number of bed nights that we have with accommodation yields. Very often, we focus on numbers alone and that is insufficient. We have what are called volume based results, which is really profitless volume. So we need to avoid that, and that is why it is important that we look at the number of bed nights.

Domestic tourism has seen some decline in recent years, with growth being relatively static. I am pleased to advise that the slowdown in international visitor rates has assisted the growth of Australian domestic visitor numbers. The slowdown resulted from the decrease of Australian visitors to Bali and is reflected in an increased number of Australian domestic visitor nights. The most recent statistics on domestic tourism indicate that in 1998 Australians spent 293.5 million nights away from home on domestic trips and took 153 million daytrips. Expenditure on domestic tourism was $43 billion. No comparison with 1997 is available due to a change in survey methodologies. But, undoubtedly, these statistics are a result of the government initiatives put in place by Minister Jackie Kelly and, before her, by Minister Andrew Thomson and Minister John Moore.

The government has a range of programs and initiatives currently in place to assist the tourism industry. This level of assistance is at an all-time high. These initiatives include the Regional Tourism Program, the Partnerships Australia Domestic tourism initiative and the Regional Online Tourism Program. Funding under the Regional Tourism Program has actually doubled, growing from $8 million a year to $16 million to assist tourism in all of the regional areas. The members in this House from regional areas can testify to the considerable assistance this has provided in terms of real incentives and a real lift to visitor numbers to country areas. Grants of between $30,000 and $100,000 will be made for innovative and worthwhile project proposals that seek to build tourism in regional Australia.

In the 1999-2000 budget the federal government pledged $8 million towards providing and stimulating domestic tourism in this country. This $8 million was matched with $4 million from the private sector and $4 million from the state governments. This has done much towards the setting up of a company, Partnership Australia Domestic—in which all of the players are involved: the various tourism authorities in each state, the private sector and the federal government—to encourage Australians to travel around their own country first to assist in the stimulation of the Australian domestic tourism market. The Regional Online Tourism Program provides $2 million over two years to help the regional tourism industry set up its own web sites to provide direct linkages for people who go to the Internet to seek more information. It is a direct initiative of Minister Jackie Kelly.

The Australian Tourist Commission receives $90 million a year. In real terms, whichever way you want to cut it—even if Labor went back to their halcyon days with Paul Hogan—there was never this level of assistance, that is, $90 million. This is also the first time we have seen any assistance for domestic tourism initiatives. This is a first for any federal government: $8 million matched by the other amounts from the states and the private sector. The $90 million represents an increase of $50 million over four years. As part of that, $9 million is being devoted to maximising the opportunities from the 2000 Olympic Games. The Australian Tourist Commission has provided its marketing strength in past years in terms of the Asian market, as the focus has shifted to that, and the traditional markets of the UK and the USA. We have seen a substantial growth in both markets, with both showing increases of over 10 per cent over the past 12 months. That has been a very significant increase.

It is forecast that for the Olympic Games we will see some additional 1.6 million visitors and $6.1 billion in foreign exchange earnings to Australia, and of course some $9 million of the amount allocated by the government to the Australian Tourist Commission is going to promote the benefits of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. In terms of significance to the economy of the number of jobs in tourism, as I mentioned, some 670,000 jobs—8.4 per cent of the total employment of this country—relate directly to tourism. They are directly dependent on it. Tourism is the largest employer in the country. Some 90,000 indirect jobs relate to tourism as well. Close to one million jobs in this country are tourism related. That is why it should be taken very seriously. Tourism is a major source for youth employment. There is a major opportunity for regional, rural and indigenous communities and for ethnic Australians to be involved in the tourism sector.

In the last financial year, foreign exchange earnings represented 14.5 per cent of Australia's total export earnings and 61.9 per cent of services exported. Some $16.2 billion in foreign exchange earnings came directly from the tourism sector. This leads to our improvement in the balance of payments overall. Of course $2.1 billion goes to regional Australia alone—to all of those various areas, which include the Gold Coast, tropical North Queensland, the Whitsundays, the Illawarra, the Northern Territory and the areas surrounding Uluru. It is therefore significant to recognise, firstly, the importance of jobs that come from the tourism industry in this country. It is the number one job supplier and the second largest earner of foreign exchange earnings in this country. The government's level of assistance to this industry has provided significant dividends. The $90 million it provides to the Australian Tourist Commission pays off in international visitors, and the new amount of $8 million for domestic tourism has provided a real stimulus that has not been seen in this country before.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —Is the motion seconded?

Ms Gambaro —I have pleasure in seconding the motion and I reserve my right to speak.