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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 586

Ms LIVERMORE (11:19 AM) —I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the motion on tourism funding, but I can let the member for Paterson know that I do not support this motion that he has put to the House. In fact, I am very happy to tell him that he would be well served to have a look at the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy, which was signed off by all tourism ministers in December 2009, because many of the long-term challenges and opportunities faced by the tourism industry here in Australia are encapsulated in that tourism strategy and, more than that, the strategy actually sets out a working plan to meet many of the challenges and to make the most of those opportunities.

I want to rebut straight off the first point of the shadow minister’s motion, where he talks about a reduction in funding for Tourism Australia. That is simply not the case. Any suggestion of reduced funding for Tourism Australia is incorrect. Tourism Australia’s funding has been maintained across the forward estimates in the budget. In fact, in response to industry demand following the global financial crisis, which of course presented enormous challenges to our tourism industry—as was experienced in the tourism sector right around the world—$9 million of Tourism Australia funding was brought forward at that time and was matched by an additional $11 million from states and territories and commercial partners. That was an effective increase in the budget for tourism at that time when support was so badly needed.

We take tourism very seriously here in the Labor Party, and I note the presence in the chamber here of the member for Port Adelaide, who was the leader of Labor Friends of Tourism in the previous parliament before his promotion to the frontbench. He is just one example of the enormous support for tourism that exists in the Labor Party and in the Gillard government. Why do we support tourism? It is very simple. Tourism is our largest services export industry. It accounts for some $24 billion each year in exports. The most recent figures, from 2008-09, show that it accounts for over 2½ per cent of our GDP annually and also employs half a million people, which is the equivalent of 4½ per cent of the workforce.

We are very mindful of the challenges the sector faces. While those figures are strong and provide a good base for us to work with the industry to seize further opportunities, we do have to recognise—and the government does recognise—that this does represent a drop in tourism’s contribution to the economy and a drop in the proportion of people employed in that sector. There is work to be done but the government is hard at work meeting those challenges.

Mr Deputy Speaker, as a Queenslander you would know as well as I do that tourism is particularly important to our state. In Queensland, tourism accounts for $9 billion of our state’s economy every year. Over 50 million people visited our state in 2010. I will be putting out the call in this and every other forum, and in every opportunity I get, to let visitors know right around Australia and around the world that Queensland is very much open for business and we really do want to welcome you back to our state. We are getting ourselves back on track after the floods and cyclones and of course many of the tourism icons in Queensland were untouched by those disasters.

I do not want to buy into the doom and gloom of some people here in the chamber. I want to spend my time in this debate talking up tourism, the tourism industry and the opportunities and experiences that are still very much on offer for tourists in our state.

The federal government was very quick to respond to the flooding and later to Cyclone Yasi in the state of Queensland. It was back in January that the Gillard government and the state Labor government announced that they would contribute $5 million each towards a tourism industry support package. Much of that money is going towards marketing, which is a very important thing that the industry has been calling for. It will include a very strong domestic marketing campaign to assure Australians that Queensland is open for business and that many of the most popular tourism destinations were untouched by those disasters that held peoples attention during January.

While I am talking about the floods, I will mention something in my local area that is very positive for our tourism sector. In early January, when we were facing the terrible flooding in Rockhampton, while we were getting enormous support from right around the country and even around the world, Tiger Airways announced that they would cancel all flights into and out of Rockhampton until the end of March. They basically pulled the plug on Rockhampton not just for that period when the airport was closed due to flooding, which was going to extend for maybe three weeks, no, Tiger told us that they were pulling out until the end of March. There has since been a lot of effort put in locally. I was furious at the time and sent a very strongly worded letter to the managing director of Tiger Airways Australia and I know I was joined in that response by many other people in Rockhampton.

I am pleased to tell the House that Tiger Airways are now coming out and supporting our local tourism operators. They have got a special deal, which was advertised last week, offering very cheap flights to Rockhampton from Melbourne. They will not start again until the end of March, but I do have to give them credit for partnering up with our local tourism operators to get that message out there that Rockhampton is open for business and that people can get there easily and cheaply.

One other thing that Tiger has done—again, I pay them credit where credit is due—is they are now flying direct out of Tullamarine Airport, which is going to make an enormous difference to the accessibility of Rockhampton, Central Queensland and the southern Great Barrier Reef when it comes to attracting interstate visitors to our community.

On another positive note, another example of how the government is supporting tourism and tourism operators is the TQUAL program. The next TQUAL round was announced just a couple of weeks ago. Some terrific projects have taken place in my electorate with the help of TQUAL grants in the last few years. When talking to the CEO of our tourism body this morning she said there is already a great deal of interest in applications for this latest round.

A couple of the ones I have been involved in and opened in the last couple of years include Henderson Park, which is a farm-stay operation 30 minutes north of Rockhampton. It is run by the Barrett family, who have been on their property at Hedlow Creek for about a hundred years. They have an absolutely beautiful set-up there with cabins and, now, the five-star Hedlow Lodge right on the banks of Hedlow Creek. That was done with the assistance of TQUAL funding.

The other one that received funding in the last couple of years is Capricorn Caves. Ann Augusteyn and her team there received money to help them expand their facilities. The great thing about this is that money from the federal government leverages private investment in these tourism operations and really allows them to take what they are offering to tourists to a new level. That is great news for the tourism operators in our electorate. They are a couple of local examples of some terrific investments in our local tourism facilities and I would encourage operators to take advantage of this latest round of TQUAL grants.

It is very clear from these measures—TQUAL, the long-term tourism policy and the response to the floods—that this government is very strongly behind the tourism industry in this country.