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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12831

Mr EMERSON (3:52 PM) —I am astonished that the member for Cook and the member for Petrie would come into this House proposing and seconding a motion which congratulates the government on its policies in relation to tourism. It is well known that the GST will come into force on 1 July next year. My colleague the member for Lalor spoke eloquently of the impact that the GST will have on tourism. I will expand on that in a moment. I was equally astonished to hear the member for Petrie talking about the replacement of a bed tax in Cairns with the GST when, in fact, there is no bed tax in Cairns; there is no bed tax in Queensland at all. There is a small bed tax in New South Wales and the Northern Territory. Members opposite should actually have a look at their own documentation, which they released before the election.

The member for Lalor also spoke eloquently about some of the great contributions that tourism makes to this country. I refer in particular to some work that has been done by the Bureau of Tourism Research, which estimates by using, coincidentally, the Monash model—about which I will speak a little bit more later—that tourism adds value: it contributes to the national income of this country to the tune of about $24 billion, which equates to about 5.4 per cent of the country's national income. That makes tourism larger than the mining industry and roughly equivalent to the size of wholesale trade, transport, storage and education.

On export earnings, the tourism industry makes an extraordinarily valuable contribution to this country with earnings of about $16.4 billion, which is considerably more than the $10.8 billion earned by, for example, mineral exports. On employment, the tourism industry contributes close to a million jobs in Australia, which is a wonderful contribution by this industry and a contribution that we on this side of the parliament do not want to see jeopardised by the introduction of the GST.

I have here what has really become the bible, the fount of wisdom, on the GST, and that is the main report of the Senate Select Committee on a New Tax System. In it, the tourism industry argues very strongly that at least a major component, that is, inbound tourism, should be exempted from the GST. Although organisations such as the Tourism Task Force and the Tourism Council of Australia argued for that, the government was completely unreceptive. As a result of that, the GST will apply to the entire tourism industry, including inbound tourism. As my colleague the member for Lalor has indicated, there is incredible price sensitivity on inbound tourism because people can shop around all around the world. The GST will in fact apply to that important component of the tourism industry, along with all the other components. All restaurants, meals, drinks and domestic travel will be subject to GST.

The Inbound Tourism Organisation of Australia was another organisation that argued unsuccessfully for the exemption of at least part of the tourism industry—inbound tourism—from the GST. A study prepared by the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University had a look at, and tried to quantify, the impact of the GST on tourism. It came up with a figure which predicted job losses at 4.3 per cent or 19,880. We have the government coming in here and saying, `Look at all of our pro-tourism policies.' How can they be proud of presiding over a policy that will lead to the loss of around 20,000 jobs in an industry which has among the greatest growth prospects in Australia? This is absolutely perverse economic policy.

We are talking about the replacement of bed taxes. A small bed tax in New South Wales and in the Northern Territory will be replaced by a bed tax on every hotel and motel in Australia—that is, the GST. What hypocrisy when people come in here and say, `We are getting rid of this bed tax.' Yes, they are, but they are replacing it with a bed tax on every hotel and motel in Australia, including in regional Australia. I thought these people were the champions of regional Australia. Where is the member for Herbert, the member for Leichhardt, the member for Hinkler and the member for Longman on this? They all voted for a bed tax on every bed in Australia. (Time expired)

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.