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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12040


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (15:08): My question is to the Minister for Tourism. Minister, why is it important to the tourism industry that the government took action on Saturday?

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (BatmanMinister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (15:08): I thank the member for Page for the question because it goes to my prime concern with respect to the action of Qantas last Saturday—that is, finally giving the tourism industry some certainty to actually get on with the job. On receiving the phone call, the government took the natural course that it should take: act decisively and terminate all industrial action because, as of Saturday, the parties had in essence given up the ghost. They had effectively said to the government that they were incapable of resolving this issue. The commission has now very decisively said that it has terminated all industrial action and the parties are now to seek to negotiate these issues in good faith. But from tourism's perspective it is about time we had a certain degree of certainty. How much pressure can this industry bear? Just think about the challenges that it has confronted over the last 12 months. Think about the Japanese market and the impact of Fukushima. Think about Cyclone Yasi and the natural disasters, like the floods earlier this year, and the associated impact on the tourism market in New Zealand of the earthquakes that have damaged visitation to Australia from New Zealand.

The tourism sector is centrally important to the Australian economy. It employs directly and indirectly just under one million Australians. Qantas is our most important carrier, both domestically and internationally. By way of reference, Qantas's international share is almost 18 per cent of total flights and provides approximately half the domestic air travel services in Australia. That is not only important to international visitation and, I might say, domestic tourism; it is also centrally important to me as the Minister for Resources and Energy. It is reflected in why we are spending the proceeds of the minerals resource rent tax on fixing the airport roads in Perth—the most important piece of infrastructure not only to the tourism industry in Western Australia but also to the resources sector when you think about the importance of fly-in fly-out workers. The Australian workforce is becoming more and more mobile in terms of suiting the needs of us delivering that huge investment pipeline of $430 billion, of which $140 billion is in the LNG sector, which is currently propping up the Australian economy. Asia presents us with an opportunity, not only from a resources perspective; I might also say that Asia is our new frontier from a tourism perspective with growth of 10 per cent per year—a capacity to actually double our numbers by 2020.

I simply say as the CEO of Tourism Australia, Mr McEvoy, appropriately said in a media release issued today: 'This decision finally provides certainty for tourism operators in Australia. It says that, both domestically and internationally, Australian tourism is open for business. We now have certainty, a capacity for people overseas and from within Australia to actually start planning their Australian holidays for this forthcoming summer.' I simply say to the industrial commission: you were right to adopt the recommendation of the Prime Minister to act decisively and to cease all industrial action so we have some certainty for all those small and medium sized businesses to prop up the tourism sector in Australia.