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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 583


Mr BALDWIN (11:08 AM) —I move:

That the House:

(1)   condemns the Rudd-Gillard Government for:

(a)   reducing funding for Tourism Australia at a time when the high Australian dollar is putting pressure on local tourism operators; and

(b)   increasing business costs for local tourism operators through:

(i)   higher tourism taxes;

(ii)   the bungled award modernisation; and

(iii)   additional superannuation guarantee payments which will be entirely funded by employers; and

(2)   calls on the Rudd-Gillard Government to match the Coalition’s commitment to increase tourism funding by $100 million to:

(a)   focus on high-yielding business events tourists;

(b)   build stronger research foundations;

(c)   encourage tourism infrastructure and product development; and

(d)   boost domestic tourism marketing.

The tourism industry in Australia was worth $93.5 billion as at 15 December 2010 and raised $22.8 billion in tourism export value and employed in excess of 500,000 Australians. I have moved that this House condemn the Rudd-Gillard government for reducing funding for Tourism Australia at a time when the high Aussie dollar is putting pressure on local tourism operators. While the Gillard government has been spending big money on pink batts, giveaways and cost blow-outs on school halls, funding for Tourism Australia has gone backwards. The Gillard government’s own budget papers show that while federal government spending has skyrocketed from $272 billion to $352 billion under Labor, funding for Tourism Australia has dropped by $13.5 million in real terms. These funding cuts under Labor mean that, in real terms, funding for Tourism Australia has not been lower since the introduction of the landmark tourism white paper in 2003. Under the Gillard government, the tourism industry is wearing the burden of Labor’s debt and deficit without having gotten any of the benefits of their record spending. In response to Labor’s 2010 federal budget, the Tourism and Transport Forum said:

The tourism industry is concerned the failure to maintain Tourism Australia’s current funding levels means that a golden opportunity to capitalise on Australia’s tourism’s strengths has been lost …

I have also moved that this House condemn the Rudd-Gillard government for increasing business costs for local tourism operators through higher tourism taxes. Labor’s addiction to reckless spending has been matched by an addiction to new taxes to fund their record debt and deficit. In their first term alone, the Rudd-Gillard government have introduced more than $1 billion of new tourism taxes on the Australian tourism industry, including: increasing a departure tax called the passenger movement charge by 24 per cent; raising tourist visa fees by more than 33 per cent; and abolishing the private provider system for the Tourist Refund Scheme for the GST. These new tourism taxes were introduced by the Rudd-Gillard government at a time when the Tourism Forecasting Committee was expecting inbound visitor arrivals to drop by 4.1 per cent. At Cairns Airport, for example, for the year ended 30 June 2009, while inbound visitor arrivals fell by 24.3 per cent compared to the previous year, the Rudd-Gillard government took home an extra $2.25 million in tax revenue.

The Labor government say increasing taxes on cigarettes will reduce the number of people smoking, yet they do not believe that increasing taxes on tourism will reduce the number of people travelling. Analysis by the Tourism and Transport Forum shows that regional Australia has been hardest hit by Labor’s increased tourism taxes. Just a one per cent rise in airfares across Australia results in a 1.01 per cent fall in demand, but for Cairns a one per cent rise in airfares causes a 1.32 per cent fall in demand. Labor’s Minister for Tourism, the Hon. Martin Ferguson, said in 2003 that the passenger movement charge was ‘ripping off the travelling public’ when it was levied at $38 per passenger. Yet in his first budget as the Minister for Tourism he increased it from $38 per passenger to $47 per passenger.

I have moved that this House condemn the Rudd-Gillard government for increasing business costs for local tourism operators through the bungled award modernisation. The tourism industry has more award reliant workers than any other sector, putting it at the front line of Labor’s botched award modernisation process. The Queensland Tourism Industry Council said in 2009:

This has led to the creation of a modern hospitality award that does not recognise the diversity of the tourism and hospitality industry and which will impact on the economic viability of tourism and hospitality businesses.

Labor’s botched award modernisation process, which was led by the Prime Minister when she was the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, created much uncertainty for tourism operators. The then Chief Executive Officer of Restaurant and Catering NSW/ACT, Robert Goldman, said in 2008:

The Award Modernisation decision was just circulated … I do suggest that many of our worst fears have been realised …

Ultimately, Labor’s botched award modernisation process has led to higher business costs for Australian tourism businesses, making them less competitive in the international tourism market, particularly when our dollar is at an all-time high. Many businesses will see an increase in operating costs of over 25 per cent. This represents another broken promise from our Prime Minister, who expressly promised that costs to businesses would not increase as a result of modern awards.

Reflecting on those increased business costs, the Chief Executive Officer of the Hotel, Motel and Accommodation Association, Lorraine Duffy, said in 2010 the ongoing cost of doing business for Australia’s accommodation sector is:

... diluting its attractiveness as a country for investment of major hotels and for smaller operators as a sustainable way to make a living.

I have also moved that this House condemn the Rudd-Gillard government for increasing business costs for local tourism operators through additional superannuation guarantee payments, which will be entirely funded by employers. Many tourism businesses will also be slugged with an additional tax on their payrolls thanks to Labor’s increase in the superannuation guarantee from nine per cent to 12 per cent, which, as I said, is to be entirely funded by employers. The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Victorian Tourism Industry Council said in 2010 in response to the increase:

Increased superannuation costs will hurt the business bottom line and discourage the hiring of new labour...

I have also moved that this House call on the Rudd-Gillard government to match the coalition’s commitment to focus on high-yielding business events tourists. The business events sector represents the greatest opportunity to build Australia’s visitor economy. Business events produce the highest daily yield of any sector of the tourism industry. The business events sector contributes an estimated $17.6 billion a year to the national economy, generating 116,000 jobs. Business events also promote and showcase Australian expertise and innovation to the world and attract global leaders and investment decision makers who would otherwise not have come to Australia. As the global financial crisis approached, the Rudd-Gillard government cut funding for Business Events Australia by more than 10 per cent, deserting the sector at the worst possible time.

Only the coalition recognises the importance of the business events sector to building Australia’s visitor economy. The coalition’s Plan for Real Action on Tourism will provide Tourism Australia with a further $10.5 million over four years to increase the marketing capacity of Business Events Australia. This significant investment would bring Australia’s business events marketing capability in line with our international competitors. The coalition’s real action plan would also provide the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux with $17.5 million over four years to operate a business events bid and boost fund. This industry partnership fund will provide the business events sector with a significant pool of funds to coordinate and support bids for key international conferences. The fund will also help maximise delegate boosting opportunities for conferences. The coalition’s real action plan would also focus departments and agencies of the Australian government, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on delivering leads for potential international conferences Australia could host.

I have also moved that this House call on the Rudd-Gillard government to match the coalition’s commitment to build stronger research foundations in the tourism industry. A strong research foundation is critical to building Australia’s visitor economy. The Rudd-Gillard government has reduced Australia’s tourism research capacity. Labor discontinued funding for the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre and moved Tourism Research Australia from Tourism Australia to being a general expense in the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. According to a report by its own steering committee on tourism, the Rudd-Gillard government’s policies will ‘leave a substantial gap in the tourism industry research capability’. The coalition’s real action plan would provide Tourism Research Australia with $8 million over four years to grow Australia’s tourism research capabilities.

I have also moved that this House call on the Rudd-Gillard government to match the coalition’s commitment to encourage tourism infrastructure and product development. The coalition has put forward an investment proposal to make sure that our tourism product is in line and competitive with the rest of the world.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Is the motion seconded?


Mr Haase —I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.