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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 818

Mr CIOBO (6:49 PM) —I am certainly pleased to rise to speak to the motion that the shadow minister for tourism, Mr Baldwin, has moved that this House, among a number of other things, essentially condemns the Gillard Labor government for its refusal to take Australia’s tourism industry seriously and, worse than that, for the fact that the Australian tourism industry under the four years that the Labor Party has been in power has suffered as poor policy decision after poor policy decision has taken effect.

In the previous parliament I had the unique privilege of being the shadow tourism minister. I have the genuine privilege of representing the part of Australia that is referred to as Australia’s premier holiday playground—that, of course, being Australia’s Gold Coast, a city of around 500,000 people. My electorate of Moncrieff has one of the highest percentages of population reliant on the tourism industry as their principal source of employment in the country. Tourism drives hundreds of millions of dollars, indeed billions of dollars, of investment in my city. Australia’s tourism industry is one of the nation’s great employers. It employs nearly 500,000 Australians, it is an industry worth around $86 billion and it generates around $24 billion of exports. It is the very kind of industry that we as a nation should be embracing, fostering and nurturing to ensure that it continues to drive export income for this nation, continues to create employment pathways for young Australians and continues to showcase Australia to the world.

That is the aspiration. It comes off a long period of great success by the former coalition government when we invested, after a number of policy decisions and a number of budgets, large amounts of funding and provided support and incentives to and nurturing of the Australian tourism industry to help it achieve great outcomes. It was the previous coalition government that brought about, in large measure, one the greatest outcomes for the tourism industry: the development and implementation of a tourism white paper. That white paper, under the former Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Joe Hockey, provided the opportunity for Australia’s tourism industry to capitalise on its potential. It saw investment by government into all manner of new product, into new pathways for the commercialisation of product and, in addition to that, into real opportunities to increase Australia’s tourism marketing spend, domestically and globally, to capitalise on the huge demand that exists to understand Australia and Australians.

That is where we have come from, but in the four short years that the Labor Party has been in power it has turned its back on Australia’s tourism industry. There is no doubt that for all the talk—and the Labor Party is big on talk—about tourism being a vital industry to country the Australian Labor Party has done nothing except put roadblocks in the way of Australia’s tourism industry. I know members opposite like to claim they support Australia’s tourism industry, but if that is truly the case why was it that in its first budget the Australian Labor Party took a number of policy positions that not only made it substantially more difficult for Australia’s tourism industry to prosper but in fact, as a direct consequence, deteriorated its position? In particular, it was under the former Rudd government, now the Gillard Labor government, that a host of new taxes and tax increases were imposed on the tourism industry.

Let me put this in the context of the global downturn. We know that the Australian dollar is basically at parity with the US dollar and that the Australian dollar has been rising consistently for a number of years. Despite the fact that for every cent the Australian dollar rises Australia’s tourism industry, when it comes to the export of tourism, is less competitive, the government have done nothing to assist the tourism industry. In fact, they have done worse than nothing. In a previous budget, the Labor government cut funding for Australia’s principal tourism marketing body, Tourism Australia, by some $13½ million in real terms. They have actually cut the amount of money made available to the national tourism body to market Australia abroad. In addition, the Labor government introduced a host of industrial relations reforms that have made it more expensive for young Aussies to get a start in the tourism industry and for employers to take the risk of employing new staff. Under the award modernisation process that this government put in place, as a direct consequence of what is effectively ridiculous award processes, there is a requirement to pay penalty rates. Under this government’s regime, in its first iteration, that would have seen penalty rates applying after 7 pm for restaurant workers. This government has made Australia’s tourism industry less competitive. The people who pay the price are the young Australians who, ordinarily, would get a job in the tourism industry. The people who pay a price are those employers who would risk their capital—

Mr Adams —Work Choices again, is it? Back to Work Choices!

Mr CIOBO —those people who would take the opportunity to actually employ staff. It is quite pathetic to hear Labor Party members yelling out: ‘Work Choices, Work Choices.’ The truth is that, with respect to Australia’s tourism industry, Work Choices never did to the potential of young Australians what the Labor Party is doing to them now. To all of those businesses that no longer open on a Sunday, to all those businesses that now close their doors early during the week, to all those businesses that have fewer staff on the books because of the penalty rates they have to pay, sure, the Labor Party can say to those who still have a job: ‘We’ve looked after you.’ But there are now so many more people who simply do not have a job.

I have someone in my own electorate who is part of the tourism industry. He is a cafe owner—he is actually an immigrant—who used to open seven days a week, but who now closes on Sundays because, as he said to me, it is simply uneconomic for him to open as a direct consequence of the new penalty rates. In that one cafe, in my electorate, six staff have lost their employment on a Sunday as a direct consequence of the new penalty rates. That is but one example. What is clear, though, is that this is a government which, when it comes to tourism policy, is just like a cork on the ocean, bobbing and blowing in each and every direction. It is not really the focus of the Minister for Tourism. He has been completely preoccupied for a number of years with the Resources and Energy portfolio. Perhaps that lay behind the decision of the current Gillard Labor government to have a quasi tourism minister in the form of the new outer ministry tourism minister.

In addition to this lack of actual policy direction when it comes to the tourism industry, we on this side of the House recognise a missed opportunity—a massive missed opportunity to invest more money into developing Australia’s tourism industry. The coalition took to the last election a tourism policy that actually would have seen the investment of an additional $100 million in Australia’s tourism industry, with a specific focus on business events tourism. That is the highest yielding part of the Australian tourism industry—a real job creator, a real export earner and a part of the tourism industry that Australia has a huge competitive advantage in. With the creation of the policy that we took to the last election and with the actual application of that policy, had we been in government, I have no doubt that we would have created thousands of jobs, created incentives for tens of thousands of additional tourists to come to this country and created a very high-yielding, generally longer term stay Australian tourism industry.

The simple inescapable reality is that members opposite are unable to actually stand and enunciate what Labor’s tourism policy is. For all intents and purposes, it has only been status quo. For a brief moment we had a lot of focus coming from the Labor Party about their long-term tourism strategy but, apart from the creation of a few interdepartmental committees and a couple of new committees that have been appointed by the minister, not a single dollar of funding has flowed as a result of the long-term tourism strategy. There have been no new initiatives with respect to the rollout beyond, as I said, the creation of some bodies and, as a consequence, the Australian tourism industry is poorer.

This has been, unfortunately, a very sad chapter of lost opportunity. It has been a sad chapter of a government that refuses to invest in one of the largest job creators and one of the principal export industries that our nation has. And, above all, this has been four long years of massive missed opportunity for Australia’s tourism industry to rise up, create employment, create export income and, for that reason, I support the motion. (Time expired)