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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 823


Mr HAASE (7:09 PM) —I rise this evening for a session of great enjoyment. I support the private members’ bill that was put forward today by the shadow minister for regional development and the shadow minister for tourism. The first thing I would like to bring to the attention of this chamber is the fact that when the member made the very valid point that, with the Gillard government’s spending skyrocketing from $272 billion of taxpayers’ money to $352 billion of taxpayers’ money, at the same time the funding for Australian tourism has been reduced, effectively, by $13.5 million. So let us not have any question raised as to whether or not or who is doing what. This government has reduced its support for one of the most important industries in Australia. The industry is earning export dollars every day for real Australians.

The member for Capricornia, in an endeavour to take the mud off the face of the government, suggested that this government was doing wonderful things for tourism. In fact, she was able to cite an institution in her electorate—namely, the Henderson Park part of the Hedlow Lodge group—and informed the chamber that they had done so well under this government that they had received a grant of $100,000. Can I bring the truth to this chamber by pointing out that the $100,000 that was granted to that establishment in fact was granted under the Australian Tourism Development Program, in round 5, in 2007, before the election. That program, of course, was put together by the hardworking members of the then Howard government. So let us not have any doubt as to whether or not this current government is reducing funding for the Australian tourism industry. It certainly is, at a time when the Australian tourism industry needs as much help as it can get.

Apart from the natural disasters down the eastern seaboard of Australia, tourism is being hit with an Australian dollar that is also on parity with the US. That makes it very difficult for potential overseas visitors to make a decision to come to Australia. They could just as easily decide to go to America now because the dollar value is about the same. It is a long way to come, Down Under, albeit that the rewards are fantastic. Those who are really, really brave will even go to Tasmania occasionally. There is a lot to see down there, but you only need a very short period of time.

However, what is important is that we understand the hurdles that have to be jumped by the tourism industry here in Australia. We have had the global financial crisis. We have dollar parity. We have banks not prepared to readily put up capital for tourism ventures. We have an approvals process in this country today that is almost insurmountable. Members of the tourism industry who have in the past been at the forefront of the industry in making investment in this country are now saying to me, ‘Anywhere but Australia.’ In a fraction of the time, anywhere in Asia, on the Indian subcontinent, in parts of Africa and South America, they can put their applications in for development and in half the time have that institution up and running. It is a sad indictment of Australian departments that we have placed such onerous restrictions on developers in this country. We do need the product. The government are doing nothing to promote the construction of product. They have cut the Australian Tourism Development Program. Why, I do not know, when we all know that we need those facilities constructed to encourage tourism to this country.

It has already been mentioned in this debate that some of the international media has cast a very dark shadow on tourism to Australia. I can tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that Carnarvon, badly hit by floods, is up and running. Doors are open and they are extending a warm welcome to visitors from anywhere, especially domestic tourists. That is what we need in Australia right now—Australians to take their holiday in Australia. Forget about the overseas holiday now. Holiday in Australia. Bring tourism, which is so important in Australia, back from being on its knees. (Time expired)