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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
05/03/2020
Estimates
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PORTFOLIO
Tourism Australia

Tourism Australia

CHAIR: We will now begin examination of Tourism Australia, and I welcome the managing director, Ms Phillipa Harrison, and officers from Tourism Australia. Ms Harrison, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Ms Harrison : I would.

CHAIR: How long will that be, and do you have copies of it, please?

Ms Harrison : I have a copy. If you don't mind, I would like to read it. A lot has happened in tourism since we last met.

CHAIR: How long is it, if I may—

Ms Harrison : About seven or eight minutes.

CHAIR: All right. We do like to have truncated statements, but, fine, go for it.

Ms Harrison : Hopefully all of your questions in my opening statement.

CHAIR: Do we have a copy available now so that people can follow the statement as it's being read?

Mr Fennell : We haven't got spare copies.

CHAIR: In the future, if you could bring one, or some, that would be very helpful. Ms Harrison, over to you.

Ms Harrison : Good evening and thank you for this opportunity to address the committee. This is only my second Senate estimates, but I'm acutely conscious of the elevated profile tourism has gained since we last spoke, sadly not for the right reasons. Our tourism story has changed quite a bit. Whilst growth had been moderating our industry was still performing well until the end of last year. International arrivals for 2019 reached a record 9.47 million visitors, up 2.7 per cent, with spend growing at five per cent. Then, in December, things started to change, and dramatically so, starting with the devastating bushfires, which led us to pause our Matesong UK campaign just days after an incredibly well received Christmas Day launch with Kylie Minogue. Whilst this was a major disappointment, it was the right decision under the circumstances.

It's not business as usual for Australia's tourism industry, nor for Tourism Australia. As with the whole country, Australian tourism is feeling the double effects of the bushfires and now the coronavirus. I'm not going to provide any official forecast this evening. With many businesses still reeling from the effects of the bushfires and without knowing how long the coronavirus outbreak is likely to last, it's too early to accurately predict the full tourism impact, but it will be significant. We've already seen a sharp decline in bookings, which is to be expected, given the magnitude of the two crises. This will undoubtedly impact future tourism numbers. Our data already indicates a downward trend in forward international bookings of around 35 per cent across our key markets. Even though only small parts of Australia were directly affected by the fires, international media coverage has created the misleading perception that all of our country is blackened and burnt. This has had a hugely damaging knock-on effect on the whole industry, with all tourism regions seeing a downturn.

Our No. 1 priority right now is to support the industry's recovery by restimulating demand and driving bookings. The government's $76 million bushfire recovery fund is certainly helping us do that. As part of the $61 million allocated to Tourism Australia, we have launched and are currently rolling out domestic business events and international recovery campaigns. As part of our international media hosting program, we will also be bringing influential media to Australia to see for themselves that we are open for business. Domestically, we are allocating a significant portion of the $20 million funding to our state and territory tourism partners on a dollar-for-dollar basis to assist in their own marketing efforts.

The recovery will take time, but our response must be swift. Our domestic campaign Holiday Here This Year was developed and launched within a week of the bushfire recovery announcement. The campaign has already reached more than 10 million people, with the industry films being viewed more than nine million times and more than 20,000 posts on social media using the Holiday Here This Year tag. Our forward-looking data for domestic bookings indicates that this campaign has helped to stem the decline in domestic bookings. Our initial tracking and testing of the campaign effectiveness shows that, of those who have seen the campaign, 14 per cent have already booked a domestic holiday, 37 per cent are now planning to take a holiday in the next 12 months that they wouldn't have otherwise taken, and 62 per cent are more likely to consider taking a holiday in Australia.

Launching next week, at our Destination Australia conference in Adelaide, we will unveil a new global ad showing the world that there is still nothing like Australia. This will build upon a tactical marketing activity already rolling out in key markets, where we're harnessing our strongest airline and commercial partnerships to magnify the impact of this campaign.

In our response, we are adopting a 'team Australia' approach across government and industry, working with our commercial partners and states and territories to help get people travelling to and through Australia. Our teams continue to engage closely with industry, through industry briefings across the country, meeting with operators, and speaking at conferences in every state and territory, because good communication and alignment are crucial at a time like this.

As our largest and most valuable inbound market, China will of course be our biggest challenge. We are already planning what support we can provide to ensure Australia quickly repositions itself as a welcoming and safe destination for Chinese visitors, including keeping in touch with our commercial partners in market and talking to the states and territories and Australian airports about how we can get Chinese airlines to direct their planes to Australia as soon as the ban lifts.

So my message to this committee tonight is that Tourism Australia is here to support the recovery and get our industry back on its feet as soon as we possibly can.

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Harrison. Senator Farrell?

Senator FARRELL: Thank you for coming along, particularly at this late hour, and thank you, Ms Harrison, for that opening statement. I'd like to just go to the minister for one moment. I refer the minister to the comments made by Minister Seselja on Monday of this week in the Finance and Public Administration estimates, which guaranteed the Senate that none of the $76 million the government has promised in response to the bushfires would be redirected to regions impacted by coronavirus. To quote Minister Seselja: 'My advice is that no bushfire funding has been diverted for coronavirus.' Is that correct?

Senator Birmingham: Senator Farrell, it is correct that no bushfire funding has been diverted. What I would highlight to you—because you are paraphrasing earlier remarks about bushfire regions—is that $76 million comprised a number of elements. There's $5 million that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is administering around work related to Australia's global reputation. There's $10 million that Austrade is administering which is exclusive for bushfire affected regions--—which Senator Ayres questioned on before, and we went through the details of that earlier. There's $61 million that Tourism Australia is administering. The government has been crystal clear—and I invite you to look at the press release at the time that was made, or any another of transcripts I gave of interviews at the time where I highlighted that that campaign would not be exclusive to those regions in which bushfires had occurred, because we acknowledged that the impact the bushfires was have reputationally was hitting the tourism industry across the country. And I cited North Queensland, Central Australia and the Margaret River, as the type of examples where we knew the campaign we ran would have to be one that supported the entire tourism industry.

Senator FARRELL: You could have included the Clare Valley in that, if you had chosen to do so.

Senator Birmingham: I was particularly including those states that were not at the forefront of Australians' minds at the time in relation to bushfires.

Senator FARRELL: I don't think you quite got the gist of my question, though. I understand the breakdown that you've mentioned and I understand that Tourism Australia is in a component of that. But my question related to whether or not the government was planning to direct any of that $76 million, whether it be the $10 million, the $61 million or the $5 million, to the coronavirus issue. He was quite emphatic to say that the answer was, 'No, none of it is going to be directed to that area.' I'm asking you to confirm that that's the case.

Senator Birmingham: Funds aren't being directed contrary to any of the purposes for which they were announced. The international marketing campaign and the domestic marketing campaign that Tourism Australia will run, and is already running in various degrees, and officials can talk through those, are not able to separate the market perceptions of bushfires versus coronavirus in the way in which we market Australia to consumers and encourage them to undertake a holiday. Obviously I would much rather wish that neither events had happened. I would wish, if we'd had to have had the bushfires, that coronavirus hadn't happened and the only thing we were dealing with at present was how to market Australia in the context of the postbushfire situation, but instead Tourism Australia is dealing with how to market Australia in the context of bushfires and coronavirus. That means that the decisions they are making about where to market, how to message and what mediums to use are all informed by the conditions that they're going into the market in.

Senator FARRELL: I'm not sure whether that's a yes or a no to my question.

Senator Birmingham: I'm assuring you that every dollar has been used for the purpose for which it was announced, but also that it's being used mindful of how circumstances have changed since.

Senator FARRELL: I ask that question specifically because Warren Entsch, in Far North Queensland, is saying, and I think he has repeated it again today, that the $76 million is going to be reallocated to include Cairns, which obviously was not a bushfire affected area. Are you saying that Mr Entsch is correct, in that at least part of the $76 million is going to be reallocated to Cairns rather than where it was originally intended to be allocated to, which was bushfire regions?

Senator Birmingham: Reallocated is not a word I would use, Senator Farrell. I would point out, as I said in my opening statement, and I invite you to go back and look at my transcripts of interviews on the day of announcing the $76 million, Far North Queensland was always going to be a part of any campaign we ran in relation to either domestically encouraging Australians to holiday within Australia or, internationally, encouraging visitors to return to Australia. I think tourism operators in FNQ would tell you, as they've told me, and as no doubt they've told Mr Entsch, that they saw cancellations and they saw downturns in bookings following the bushfires, just as tourism operators did right across the country.

Senator FARRELL: So when Mr Entsch says that $25 million is going to be allocated to Far North Queensland from this $76 million bushfire response, he is correct?

Senator Birmingham: He's talking about the scale of international marketing effort that's being undertaken, which in the end will be far greater than that once we look at utilisation of existing resources, as well as the specific international funds that were announced as part of that package, as well as the contributions of partners to that market. Certainly FNQ is, as I said, always front and centre in our campaigns and will be in terms of the international effort that we are and will make in the coming months.

Senator FARRELL: When he says the $25 million out of this $76 million package that was promised for bushfires—he's correct in saying that that money is going to be redirected to Far North Queensland, which was not affected—this is not a trick question, Minister. Is Mr Entsch correct when he says $25 million of the $76 million is going to be redirected to Far North Queensland, which was not affected by the bushfires? My understanding is that the government presented a package. We had a terrible situation over the summer, with terrible bushfires. The government comes out and says, 'Look, we're going to give $76 million to these bushfire affected areas.' We now find Mr Entsch saying that $25 million—so roughly one-third—of that total amount is going to Far North Queensland, which was not affected by bushfires. I'm not saying it doesn't have other problems, but I think people understood—I don't want to raise the sports rorts issues as to what, on the one hand, government says—

Senator Birmingham: That would be a very long bow to draw, Senator Farrell.

Senator FARRELL: What government say and what they actually do are quite different.

CHAIR: I'm sure there's a question there somewhere!

Senator FARRELL: I have asked a question.

Senator Birmingham: I'm waiting for you to draw a breath so I can answer it.

Senator FARRELL: I'm waiting for the answer.

CHAIR: If you stop talking you might get one.

Senator Birmingham: I was being polite!

Senator FARRELL: Just in case the minister didn't understand the question, I'm asking: is Mr Entsch correct when he tells the—

CHAIR: It was about five minutes ago that you asked that.

Senator FARRELL: Yes. He told the Cairns Post, I think it was, that $25 million from the $76 million is going to Far North Queensland—is he correct? I can't be simpler than that. It's yes or no. Either he's right or he's wrong.

Senator Birmingham: Except the entire premise of the question you just asked is based on an incorrect misunderstanding and suggests you haven't been listening to a word I've said tonight, let alone ever read the press release that announced the $76 million.

Senator FARRELL: I've hung off every word, Minister.

CHAIR: You might have listened but you didn't comprehend.

Senator Birmingham: As I said before, Senator Farrell, we were crystal clear at the time of announcing the $76 million that it was not, as you suggest in your question, all going to purely be spent on marketing the fire affected regions, because we acknowledged at the time that the impact reputationally of the fires was hurting tourism businesses across the country, including those, for example, in Far North Queensland. That has been the government's position from day one. I invite you to find a single statement from me suggesting that, in any way, all $76 million was only going to be spent in those fire affected regions. We made sure components of the package were dedicated to the fire affected regions, but the work that Tourism Australia is administering in terms of the domestic marketing campaign and the international marketing campaign was always clearly going to be made available to promote the entire Australian tourism industry, because the entire industry was hurting.

Senator FARRELL: Can I put it to you minister that, when you announced the $76 million as a response to the bushfires, those communities believed that that was what you were talking about. Perhaps I've misunderstood and perhaps they've misunderstood as well. But for a third of the amount of money to go to Far North Queensland, which was not affected by the bushfires—I accept that there are other problems up there and I accept that the coronavirus is a significant issue up there, but there would have been other ways of dealing with that, like additional funding. If you wanted to deal with that issue in Far North Queensland, there was the option of giving another $25 million to those people.

Senator Birmingham: I can only reinforce that you are completely misrepresenting what the government said at the time very, very clearly. As I said, I know that I said in countless interviews at the time that the funds would support the industry, acknowledging that there had been booking cancellations in Far North Queensland, Central Australia and the Margaret River. I know you heard me say that before, because you said it was a shame I didn't mention the Clare Valley. That was the government's position from day one when this package was announced.

Senator FARRELL: I understand that other areas have been affected by virtue of these issues, but I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that I think people understood that the $76 million was in response to the bushfires. The one thing we can say about Far North Queensland is that they haven't had the bushfires. They've got a lot of other problems, and I accept that those problems need addressing, but that should be with additional funds, not taking money—

Senator Birmingham: I can assure you that Far North Queensland, in addition to many other parts of Australia, was receiving cancellations and downturns in bookings at the time of the bushfires as a result of the global media coverage of the bushfires. That's the reason why we shaped the response the way we did. As I said, I invite you to look at the press release of the announcement or any number of transcripts made at the time, all of which are crystal clear and leave no room to believe that those funds were only to be used for certain regions.

Senator FARRELL: Talking of press releases, I would like to go to one by the Australian Tourism Industry Council. They have called for a doubling of support to be made available in response to the bushfire crisis. They have stated:

It is abundantly clear the overall cost of coronavirus to Australian tourism enterprises and tourism reliant communities will exceed the level of financial and operational impact caused by the devastating bushfires … Many regional tourism jobs are now being shed and hours cut for staff, whilst operations are being forcibly downsized and local supply arrangements halted with business cashflows becoming strained.

How are you going to respond to a request for doubling of the support? In other words, if you say the figure is $76 million, they are looking for double that amount of money to deal with the combination of bushfires and coronavirus. Will the government make more money available to deal with these issues?

Senator Birmingham: I've seen ATIC's statements and received their correspondence on the matter. I agree with them that the impact of coronavirus will be even deeper in its effect and longer in its duration in terms of impact on the Australian tourism industry than the bushfires. As the Prime Minister has made clear, the government is working on a response package to deal with the market implications and downturn associated with coronavirus. That will be finalised and released shortly.

Senator FARRELL: How shortly?

Senator Birmingham: When the government has finalised it and decides to release it.

Senator FARRELL: When will that be?

Senator Birmingham: Shortly.

Senator FARRELL: That is a bit circular. In early February ATIC surveyed their members and found that three-quarters of their membership had indicated in the majority that their businesses are already or about to be impacted by coronavirus by extensive cancellations and dried up visitor spending. Would you agree a month later that the impact is likely to be far greater?

Senator Birmingham: I don't understate the impact of coronavirus. The travel and tourism industry globally now—it's not an isolated Australian experience—but clearly it is and will continue to significantly impact many tourism businesses and many tourism regions. The Prime Minister has been clear, in terms of the type of work that the government is doing, that it is work also acknowledging the need to target the response to protect businesses and jobs in those communities and sectors most impacted.

Senator FARRELL: So when are you going to do something about it? You are acknowledging the problem, what are you waiting for?

Senator Birmingham: We are working through the policy proposals at present. This is not a crisis that is going to be over in a week or two. It is going to have a long and pronounced impact. We're not about to repeat the mistakes made by the previous government when it decided to embark on a stimulus spree that saw enormous wastage. We want to make sure that investments that we make are targeted to deliver assistance to those who need it most and to protect businesses and jobs as best we can. I assure you that that work will be finalised and publicly released shortly.

Senator FARRELL: Can I say about those decisions of the Rudd government that they kept us out of recession. You may not like that, Senator Abetz, but it kept us out of recession and it is one of the reasons why we have had all those continuous years of economic growth.

Senator Birmingham: The mining investment boom did a lot more at the time to keep us out of recession.

CHAIR: Exactly.

Senator FARRELL: I think that's why you're in tourism.

CHAIR: And you're in opposition.

Senator Birmingham: Touche, Senator Abetz!

Senator FARRELL: Modelling released by the Tourism and Transport Forum last week indicated that international visitation is likely to drop by 40 per cent or 1.8 million visitors. Lost spend is likely to be around $2 million each month. Job losses are likely to be between 15 and 20 per cent. That equates to 99,000 to 132,200 jobs, most of them being part-time and casual positions. Do you accept that there are now serious problems in tourism and that the industry is now waiting for you to give a response?

Senator Birmingham: I refer to my previous answers. I don't understate the impact on the industry at all. It will be significant. It is significant already, the extent to which Australia has already seen reduction in flight connections, a downturn in visitor numbers already. The decline in bookings, which is far deeper than the decline we saw from the bushfires, is real. That's why the government is acting. There's no silver bullet or magic wand that can replace the markets that we've lost visitation from, but Tourism Australia is working as hard as they can to stimulate the domestic market and to make sure that we get maximum available visitation out of those consumers in international markets who still have a willingness to travel. The government is working on response measures to deal with some of those other economic impacts.

Senator FARRELL: Yes, but isn't it too little too late? People are waiting for these responses. You've just acknowledged the problem. Ms Harrison went through in some detail about what has happened since the end of last year. What are you waiting for? You know the problems. They are getting worse because of the coronavirus. What is it that's stopping the government from coming out with this announcement? What are you waiting for?

Senator Birmingham: The government is doing proper analysis to make sure that what we do will have the best impact on protecting jobs and businesses.

Senator FARRELL: So what's that? What do you say that is?

Senator Birmingham: You will know those policy measures when they are released.

Senator FARRELL: You must be working on them now?

Senator Birmingham: Sure.

Senator FARRELL: What are some of the things that you think the Australian tourism industry needs right now by way of support from the Australian government?

Senator Birmingham: I'm sorry, but I am not going to conduct a cabinet Expenditure Review Committee process in this estimates hearing. I'll work through the proper processes of the cabinet and the government to get the best possible outcome for the tourism industry.

Senator FARRELL: Can't you tell us what you're thinking about? Can't you tell us some of the things that you think? The industry's crying out for support. They've had this double-barrelled problem—bushfires and now coronavirus. What is it that you are looking at doing for this industry? People are waiting for you to say something. They want some action. You're here with the department. What about giving them a few clues as to what you think an Australian government can do to help them in these terrible circumstances?

Senator Birmingham: Thank you for the kind invitation to give you an exclusive, Senator Farrell, but I'm—

Senator FARRELL: I am not asking for an exclusive. I am asking for you to tell—

Senator Birmingham: The government will make its response, and you will know about it when we make it. We are considering many different options. Of the many different options we are considering we will look at the evidence and determine to act on those that are going to have the best targeted impact to protect Australian jobs and Australian businesses. Tourism Australia, if you ever want to ask them a question, is equally pivoting in terms of the resources they have to make sure they are deployed in ways to get the best possible result for the Australian industry at present. What they are doing certainly won't be all that the government does but, again, unlike previous governments, we won't just say that new money is always the solution. We will make sure that the existing budgets are used as effectively as possible as well. That's why TA has been working very hard to change their posture in a number of ways to make sure that they drive as much demand as can be stimulated for the Australian industry.

CHAIR: Senator Van has a few questions. I will move to Senator Van, and then we will go back to you Senator Farrell.

Senator VAN: I have some questions for Tourism Australia. Last month I conducted a roundtable with the consul generals and the consular staff of the Victorian consular corps down in Lakes Entrance, one of the bushfire-affected areas in my home state of Victoria. It's a great initiative. They loved going down there and seeing, firsthand, some of the impacts of the fires. I was presenting to them ideas as part of the announcement that was made by the government in bushfire relief for the $9.5 million for international media and travel trade hosting as well as the $5 million for our diplomatic network. They weren't aware of those at that stage. It was not long after the announcements. I was just wondering if Tourism Australia could tell me: how those programs are going, what sort of take-up rates they're getting and perhaps ways we could get that word out to the diplomatic network a bit quicker?

Ms Harrison : Sure. We do talk to the diplomatic network in the markets that we're active in.

Senator VAN: I'm sure you do.

Ms Harrison : We're not active all the markets that the diplomatic network is in. We're active in 15 those. In those, all of our officers are in regular contact with the consul generals and work very closely and invite them to all our events. I don't think there is a communications gap in those markets. Of the programs that you're referring to, there are two programs. Tourism Australia administers one of those. That is part of the Bushfire Recovery Fund, which is the IMHP, the International Media Hosting Program.

The IMHP is a program that we've had for a number of years. It's a really effective program. It's where we invite journalists, broadcasters and influencers to come down to Australia and we show them what we have to offer; we don't tell them. The additional government funding was around accelerating that program, because, over the bushfire period, there was a lot of misperception out there. There's no doubt that the bushfires were unprecedented and severe in their impact, but the reality is the perceptions offshore of what had happened here based on the media coverage were far, far worse. We were awarded this additional $9.5 million to accelerate that program to get more media down here to tell the Australian story to their audiences. That program is in train at the moment. We have 55 additional visits that we are working on, which need to be delivered over the next period of time until December 2020. Some of those have visited. Some of those are confirmed. Some of those are in negotiation. It's a range of media, not just lifestyle media. We're also looking at big broadcast breakfast television programs and current affairs journalists as well. It's a good program. It's going to make a difference.

Senator VAN: Excellent. Thank you for that. I will be doing these roundtables quarterly, so I will send you an invite to come to the next one.

Ms Harrison : I would love to.

Senator FARRELL: Minister, the Cairns Post reported on 27 February that there was going to be $15 million of private investment in tourism projects. Were you aware that this announcement was going to be made or were you aware of it being made?

Senator Birmingham: I'm not sure offhand that I'm aware of the story you're talking about, Senator Farrell.

Senator FARRELL: So you're not aware of any announcement of $15 million of private investment in tourism projects?

Senator Birmingham: Maybe if I had a little bit more information it might trigger my memory.

Senator FARRELL: That's alright. I have a question for Tourism Australia.

Senator Birmingham: You should be reading the Clare and Gilbert valleys times more than the Cairns Post.

Senator FARRELL: I was going to say, it's not the Clare and Gilbert valley times. There are two newspapers out there. There's the Northern Argus and the Plains Producer. They're both competing for—you grew up that way, didn't you?

Senator Birmingham: Mine was the Bunyip, but Senator Abetz is about to tell us off, so get to your question.

Senator FARRELL: I will. We heard earlier about the announcement by Mr Entsch about the $25 million. What's been the role of Tourism Australia in the allocation of this $76 million? Were you the organisation that indicated to Mr Entsch that he was getting $25 million for Far North Queensland?

Ms Harrison : We've been very clear in our communications that, of the $76 million that was allocated for tourism from the Bushfire Recovery Fund, there were four projects that we were responsible for, which accounted for $61 million of that. There was $20 million for a domestic campaign, $25 million for an international campaign, $9.5 million for the media hosting campaign and $6.5 million for the Australian Tourism Exchange. In terms of the international campaign, which is rolling out at the moment, the way that we work out what experiences we are going to feature is we work very closely with our state and territory partners and we talk to them about what we should feature in this campaign. We would deal with Tourism and Events Queensland in this case, and I can tell you that the Great Barrier Reef is always a key component of that because it is a huge drawcard for international tourism. But it is one of many experiences that we are featuring as part of that $25 million international campaign.

Senator FARRELL: The $25 million that Mr Entsch is talking about, is that the $25 million you're talking about?

Ms Harrison : I don't know; you tell me. I can just tell you—

Senator Birmingham: Have you got a direct quote of Mr Entsch?

Senator FARRELL: Yes. He says: 'The Morrison government will invest $25 million—

Senator Birmingham: No, you're not quoting Mr Entsch; you're quoting the newspaper story.

Senator FARRELL: I can say:

"We have listened and we have acted," he said.

"This international marketing campaign will highlight what is great about our nation—lifestyle, character and our natural assets such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest and the wilderness of Cape York."

Senator Birmingham: Okay. Even if we go back to the quote that you were about to falsely attribute to Mr Entsch, which starts with 'The Morrison government will invest $25 million into a marketing effort with a significant focus on Far North Queensland,' it's not a quote that is in any way at odds with what Ms Harrison just said. The campaign absolutely will have a significant focus on Far North Queensland.

Senator FARRELL: That's why I was asking Ms Harrison the question. Is this $25 million, either attributed to Mr Entsch or attributed to the newspaper, the same $25 million that you're talking about, or don't you know?

Ms Harrison : The only thing I can tell you is what the additional funds are that Tourism Australia received and how we are spending them. That's all I can safely tell you.

Senator FARRELL: Yes. But when this newspaper says:

The Morrison Government will invest $25 million into a marketing effort with a significant focus on Far North Queensland—money directed from a $76 million crisis package already announced for areas struggling in the wake of bushfires—

is that correct?

Senator Birmingham: The back half of that statement is incorrect, in that the $76 million was, as we've gone through before, announced as a response for the tourism industry nationally, which was struggling from the effect of bushfires.

Senator AYRES: It's a bushfire package, isn't it?

Senator FARRELL: So this story is incorrect.

Senator Birmingham: Senators, I don't think you were here for all of my exchange with Senator Farrell, but I went over the fact that we were crystal clear all along that that funding, in terms of the marketing efforts that Tourism Australia would run, was about dealing with the national downturn the tourism industry was facing because of the reputational hit of the bushfires. It wasn't specific to the bushfire regions.

Senator FARRELL: So the newspaper story, in your view, is incorrect.

Senator Birmingham: In fairness to the newspaper, it says, 'for areas struggling in the wake of bushfires'. All internationally exposed tourism regions were struggling in the wake of bushfires as a result of booking cancellations and downturns.

Senator FARRELL: So the story is correct.

Senator Birmingham: Broadly, as we have unpacked each of the words there, the story is correct. But the story is also consistent with the government's announcement from day one.

CHAIR: That's not how it was presented early on.

Senator FARRELL: Minister, have you received any feedback from tourism stakeholders that indicate they're unhappy that the government is not considering additional financial support for coronavirus at this stage?

Senator Birmingham: The government is preparing a response to the economic circumstances created by the coronavirus.

Senator FARRELL: That wasn't my question, Minister. I will repeat it. Have you received any feedback from tourism stakeholders unhappy that you are not considering additional financial support because of the coronavirus at this stage?

Senator Birmingham: The government is considering and preparing an economic response to the circumstances.

Senator FARRELL: Have you had any feedback from those bushfire affected areas unhappy that funding promised to them might be used elsewhere?

Senator Birmingham: No, because the money promised to them is being delivered to them. The money promised to the tourism industry nationally in the wake of the bushfires is being delivered to the tourism industry nationally as promised.

Senator FARRELL: Minister, have you requested any modelling on the impact of the virus on the tourism industry?

Senator Birmingham: I haven't requested impact modelling. Particularly at present when we don't know how long the downturn will go for, it would really be a question of, 'How long is a piece of string?' What I am informed by is the evidence we have at present around bookings data, arrival numbers and decline in aviation capacity into Australia. So I'm certainly continuously seeking from Tourism Australia, from Austrade, from the department of transport and from industry evidence around the impacts. But, no, I haven't gone and wasted any taxpayer dollars on some type of hypothetical modelling exercise for a big headline number that would be wildly inaccurate because we don't yet know the full extent of the issue. If modelling had been done a week and a half ago, it probably would've assumed that containment might work and this would largely be a China focused issue. A week and a half later, we're dealing with a very different circumstance.

Senator FARRELL: But other organisations have done some modelling, have they not?

Senator Birmingham: You quoted a few of their figures earlier, yes. They're not using taxpayer dollars and they're free to spend their money as they wish.

Senator FARRELL: You don't take any notice of those organisations?

Senator Birmingham: You asked me about it and I said that I well and truly fully accept the severity of this. It will be an impact of billions of dollars. If you want me to say that, I'm more than happy to say it will be a very significant impact.

Senator FARRELL: Ms Harrison, have you received any feedback from stakeholders about the virus and its impact on industry?

Ms Harrison : Daily. There's a lot of anecdotal feedback. But this crisis is still evolving, as the minister said, and, like everybody, we don't know where it's going to end up at this point. I don't know that we can put any numbers on it at this point because we just don't know where it's going to end.

Senator FARRELL: I wasn't asking you to put any numbers on it, Ms Harrison. You said 'anecdotal' stories. So nobody is coming to you directly and telling you about the impact it's having on their business?

Ms Harrison : Absolutely.

Senator FARRELL: So there are people?

Ms Harrison : Individual businesses are telling us. As I said, communication is very important and our outreach with industry is extensive, and daily, across the organisation. We're hearing a lot of stories. Everybody is experiencing a significant downturn. There aren't any businesses that are unaffected by this.

Senator FARRELL: What are you doing in response?

Ms Harrison : We are mobilising our four pillars that I just talked through: our domestic campaign, our international campaign, our media program and ATE. But I think the reality is that we can't market our way out of this at the moment. I think we just have to keep doing what we're doing.

Senator FARRELL: Do people ring you directly about it?

Ms Harrison : Yes. I speak to industry all the time.

Senator FARRELL: What do you tell them? Do you say, 'We've got to grin and bear it'?

Ms Harrison : I absolutely don't. We have a three-point model that we are working through with this crisis. When we're in crisis mode, it's really about communicating the facts. One of the things that happen when these crises happen is that there is a lot of misinformation out there, so we spend a lot of time talking about the facts. At that time we also spend a lot of time preparing for what we are going to do as part of our recovery efforts. We are rolling out those recovery efforts but we are also preparing to recover markets that we are not as engaged with at the moment. One of the big ones is China. We are spending a lot of time at the moment working with our industry colleagues, as Team Australia, with airports, with our state and territory partners, with industry, on what our response and our recovery program will be as soon as we can go back into China. So we are doing a huge amount of work at the moment.

Senator FARRELL: But you're not going to be able to do that any time soon, I assume.

Ms Harrison : We have to be ready with our plans so that we can go in and we can go in at scale when we're able to. That takes some work and some preparation. Meanwhile, we're looking at alternative markets and making sure that we are appropriate in the activity that we are doing. It's all around the tone of our messaging and the timing of that messaging at the moment. That is something that pivots and changes on a daily basis.

Senator FARRELL: So you're talking alternative markets. What are you looking at there?

Ms Harrison : We are working in 15 markets that we have always worked in, but what we pivot and change on is the types of activities we are engaging in and which markets we are scaling up and scaling down.

Senator FARRELL: What markets are you talking about there?

Ms Harrison : There is an opportunity at the moment with some of our direct markets. The US is a market that we are scaling up at the moment. It's a market that is doing really well for us. It's a market that was quite affected by the bushfires. There were some big misperceptions in that market, probably more than any other market, so we're doing a lot of work. The media hosting program is very focused on that market. But we also think there's an opportunity, as a safe destination, to really scale up our activities there.

Senator FARRELL: So we're looking at the US market. What are we looking at doing there? How do we make up or compensate for the visitors we're losing from China at the moment?

Ms Harrison : I don't think there's any way that you can make up or compensate for the China market at the moment. It is such a large-scale market. But the US market is one of those that have a lot of potential, which is why we have refocused a lot of our activity in that market over recent years. We have a range of activities in market there. We have brand activity. We have a lot of PR and media hosting activity. We're looking at bringing some of the bigger broadcast morning shows and late-night shows down so that they can bring with them their audiences to show what Australia has to offer, to show that our experiences are still here and open for business.

Senator FARRELL: Over what time frame are we looking at doing those things?

Ms Harrison : We are always working busily in the US market.

Senator FARRELL: So this is not just something that's been a response to the bushfires or coronavirus? This is something that we typically do in any event in the United States?

Ms Harrison : We have our existing activity, our business as usual, if you like, and then we have the opportunity to scale that up with the additional funding that we get. As an organisation, we make decisions a lot more frequently at the moment about what we scale up and what we scale back. For example, we have scaled back Hong Kong, China and Korea, and we're looking at where we divert those funds and we're looking at the markets that have the most opportunity given what is happening today. That might be different from what is happening tomorrow.

Senator FARRELL: But, at the moment, the US is the focus of that?

Ms Harrison : It is one of the focuses.

Senator FARRELL: What are some of the others?

Ms Harrison : We are looking at the UK and Europe as well and South-East Asia.

Senator FARRELL: The money that you're going to use for this comes out of the $61 million? Is that what you're telling us? Or is this some other pocket of money that you're getting?

Ms Harrison : We have our annual appropriation, our annual operating plan, if you like, and so we're using existing funds from our appropriation as well as this additional money. It's a combination of both.

Senator FARRELL: Is the money rolling out? Are we using this extra money to get into the US market?

Ms Harrison : As fast as we possibly can.

Senator FARRELL: Can you give us some examples of what we've done?

Ms Harrison : Sure. We are working on a brand campaign for the US market under our banner, 'There's Still Nothing Like Australia', reminding the American audience that we still have incredible experiences here. As I said, we're focusing a lot of our media hosting program on US targets. We have organised a megafamil for Western markets. But there's a big focus on the US market where we are going to, as part of that $9.5 million, bring down 150 frontline agents to Australia again to show them, not tell them, that we're open for business. There are a range of options like that.

Senator FARRELL: The point I'm trying to make is that there's an emergency out there as a result of these twin catastrophes—the bushfires and the coronavirus. When do we think this is going to have an impact on the US market if that's the target market now? How far are we from getting that out there and—

Ms Harrison : It's out there.

Senator FARRELL: It's out there already?

Ms Harrison : It's out there, yes. We never went dark in the US market.

Senator FARRELL: I thought you were saying that you were doing some extra things in the US market to try and compensate for what we've lost from China.

Ms Harrison : Yes, a lot of—

Senator FARRELL: That was happening way before the bushfires, wasn't it?

Ms Harrison : The extra things are scaling up our existing programs. Where we could bring maybe 50 agents down, we can now bring 150 down.

Senator FARRELL: Okay. That's where you're directing your extra money.

Ms Harrison : It's around scalability. It's a huge market with huge opportunity, and having additional budget there is going to mean that we can just do more in that market.

Senator FARRELL: So you're taking some of this $61 million, and you're putting it into that US market to compensate—

Ms Harrison : Correct.

Senator Birmingham: I want to make an important point. I fully anticipate visitor numbers from the US to decline as well. So what we're investing in is making sure that we get the maximum share of US travellers who are willing to travel and that the decline isn't as bad as it might otherwise be. Coronavirus is causing a decline in all markets. No amount of Tourism Australia marketing can prevent that. But obviously, as Ms Harrison says, we don't want to go black in those markets either, because that would be to give up and potentially relinquish those who we could still attract to come to Australia and would also have longer term negative implications in terms of losing motivation and excitement to potentially come to Australia in the future.

Senator FARRELL: Do you think that coronavirus and/or bushfires will result in a drop in US tourist numbers?

Senator Birmingham: I think that, based on what I am seeing, every one of our tourism markets—save for, potentially, New Zealand—will see a decline as a result of coronavirus. Even New Zealand probably will.

Ms Harrison : But that's not an Australia problem; that is a global problem. But I think the other thing that's important to note is that there is a long period between somebody deciding where they're going on holidays and going on holidays. We call it the 'dreaming phrase' in marketing. That can take years. It can be 12 months before someone decides to plan, book and travel. So we need to be out there. We need to still be top of mind for consumers. Even though we will see a decline right now because of what is playing out, we think this will be a big opportunity for when the markets open up. Australia is going to be there and ready.

Senator FARRELL: The minister seems to be saying that we're losing the market from China. You said that we're looking at trying to compensate for that by looking at other markets, such as the United States. The minister seems to be suggesting that numbers actually might be falling from there. If we're anticipating not only a fall in Chinese visitor numbers but also a fall in US visitor numbers, what is the purpose of ramping up expenditure in the US?

Ms Harrison : It's two things. One is mitigation. There is not a tourism market in the world that is going to experience growth at this point. Everybody is in decline. It's about mitigating that. It's mitigation—so maybe less of a decline.

Senator FARRELL: Okay. That makes sense.

Ms Harrison : But it is also about making sure that Australia is top of mind in our key markets when this does recover. We saw from SARS that the decline was steep, but the recovery was steep as well. We want to be ready as a great option when the markets open up and people start travelling again.

Senator FARRELL: We've had a fair discussion about the international market. I want to change direction a little bit and talk about the domestic market campaigning—the $20 million there. Can you provide us with an update on the rollout of the Holiday Here This Year campaign?

Ms Harrison : Sure. We have divided that campaign into a couple of different areas. One was the overarching launch on 23 January. That was launching the concept, if you like, and that concept was around the outpouring of support and help that Australians wanted to give each other and, in particular, the bushfire affected areas. The premise of the campaign was: 'If you want to help, here's something really simple that you can do: you can choose to holiday here this year.' That was the concept, the strategy, the brand. Then we also partnered with our states and territories and with some national commercial partners on really bringing that to life in terms of bookings and the retail element of that.

Senator FARRELL: Are you able to provide a breakdown of how much of the $20 million allocated has been spent on the Holiday Here This Year campaign to date?

Ms Harrison : I will defer to my colleague Mark on exactly how much we have spent.

Mr Craig : I don't have it exactly on the Holiday Here This Year campaign, but what I can say across the $41.5 million is that we received the funding just this week and we've paid $3.2 million to date. We have $8 million in terms of purchase orders in the system that will go out in the short term when we have the matching invoice. And we have partnership marketing agreements of just under $9 million already signed.

Senator FARRELL: Who are they are with?

Mr Craig : They are with the five states and territories. I can give you individual breakdowns, if you like.

Senator FARRELL: That would be handy.

Mr Craig : I will just get the right page.

Ms Harrison : About half of the $20 million is being spent in conjunction with the states. They are all looking at their own local campaigns. The beauty of that is that they know the regions that they need to feed and they can be really hyperlocal in the delivery of their campaigns. That's why we very deliberately chose to partner a significant proportion of the funds—$10 million of the funds—into their local campaigns to extend the Holiday Here This Year message.

Senator FARRELL: I thought Mr Craig said $9 million.

Mr Craig : Approximately in terms of signed contracts at the moment.

Ms Harrison : There are a couple still coming in with some of the smaller states.

Senator FARRELL: But you expect that figure to be $10 million?

Ms Harrison : Yes.

Senator FARRELL: What's the arrangement? Is it dollar for dollar?

Ms Harrison : It is a dollar-for-dollar match. What that means is that federal funds are being matched with state funds, and there is a real alignment there. That is really retail messaging. It's about targeting and driving bookings into those areas. As we hadn't been in the domestic market since 2013, that was the most expedient way to deliver those results into those regions that needed it in the fastest manner.

Senator FARRELL: And you've had no problem getting a dollar-for-dollar matching with any of the states or territories?

Ms Harrison : No. We have asked for additional funds, incremental funds, for the domestic market, and they have all managed to come up with it.

Senator FARRELL: From the states?

Ms Harrison : Yes, from the states.

Senator FARRELL: Mr Craig, you were going to go through the breakdown.

Mr Craig : I don't actually have the specific breakdown with me. I can tell you the five states that we have signed with, if that is of any assistance.

Senator FARRELL: Yes.

Mr Craig : New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT.

Senator VAN: Could I ask a follow-up question?

Senator FARRELL: Yes.

Senator VAN: Could you, maybe on notice, provide the quantum for each of those states?

Senator FARRELL: I think that's what you were saying you didn't have.

Mr Craig : Yes.

Ms Harrison : We are still finalising those numbers. We can take that on notice once they are all final.

Senator VAN: Thank you.

Senator FARRELL: I guess if you are still finalising the numbers, the money actually hasn't gone into it. What happens then? Do the states give you the money and then you distribute to them, or—

Ms Harrison : They're the banker. We sign a marketing agreement with them where we have a media plan and a plan of action. We work out how we're going to spend this money and it's matched dollar for dollar. Once we have that, we pay them. They're the banker.

Senator FARRELL: So they hold the money?

Ms Harrison : They hold the money. If there's a $2 million campaign, we will put in $1 million and they will put in $1 million. But they will administer that money. We will give them the million, once we have a contract that says exactly how they're going to spend that money and we're satisfied it's the best and highest use of that money.

Senator FARRELL: So you get ultimate say on where the money is spent?

Ms Harrison : It’s a partnership. We negotiate it.

Senator FARRELL: Yes. But, if you were to say, 'No, I don't want the money spent on the Barossa Valley. I would prefer to have the money spent on the Clare Valley'?

Ms Harrison : No. That's why we do partner with them, because they are very close to their product in their state.

Senator FARRELL: You let them work out how they are going to spend the money.

Ms Harrison : On advisement. We work together.

Senator FARRELL: They tell you what they're doing.

Ms Harrison : Yes.

Senator FARRELL: But they are the ones make the decisions because they're closer to the action. Is that a fair assessment?

Ms Harrison : Yes. That's fair to say.

Senator FARRELL: But is it fair to say that no-one has actually got this money yet?

Mr Craig : Not yet.

Senator FARRELL: No-one has got it yet.

Ms Harrison : But the campaigns have rolled out. The state campaigns have already started rolling out. Remember, this money is going over two financial years. Our portion of the campaign is going to kick in in coming months—up until December.

Senator FARRELL: Right.

Ms Harrison : So that campaign is already live.

Senator FARRELL: The money they're spending at the moment is their own money to get the ball rolling? Have I got that right?

Ms Harrison : Yes. A portion of it is being spent—the portion of the overall campaign—so we don't look at it as 'their money' or 'our money'. This is a joint campaign that is rolling out over a number of months. It doesn't really matter whether it's a TA dollar or a state dollar at any point.

Senator FARRELL: I imagine the states would look at it as either their money or your money—with all due respect.

Senator Birmingham: The states who have signed the contracts know that the money is there for them to spend.

Senator FARRELL: I'm not suggesting that the Commonwealth is not good for the money.

Senator Birmingham: The other point is of course that Tourism Australia is undertaking its own aspects of the domestic marketing campaign too. So the work the states are doing is complementing the spend that is happening from TA in its purchases as well.

Senator FARRELL: Yes. But we've got roughly a $20 million spend here? That's the totality—state and federal—but, so far, none of the federal contribution—so the programs are rolling out; the states aren't waiting for the feds, but the feds actually haven't given any of the money to the states so far?

Ms Harrison : That's one portion of the campaign. There is also the brand bit, if you like. We have to tell people what the campaign is, and that's all rolled out. There is a media portion and that is underway and has been since 23 January. Then there is also the national partnerships portion of the campaign that I talked about, which is $5 million of that. That is around the commercial partners who have a national footprint. It makes more sense rather than working state by state. That is airlines—we are currently in market with Helloworld, which has a footprint across Australia and we're doing a campaign with them at the moment.

Senator FARRELL: Helloworld is a tourism provider.

Ms Harrison : Correct.

Senator FARRELL: What is your arrangement with Helloworld?

Ms Harrison : As with the state and territory partners, we have a range of commercial partners—Helloworld, Qantas, Virgin, Top Parks—which are great for regional dispersal because they're holiday parks around Australia. We enter in an arrangement with them, where we do a dollar-for-dollar match, again amplifying the funds the federal government is putting in, and doubling them in this effort to encourage people to holiday here this year.

Senator FARRELL: With respect to the Helloworld money, can you tell us what it is they're doing with this dollar-for-dollar arrangement?

Ms Harrison : They're putting packages out in the market through their retail network. They're doing digital marketing and print advertising, just the usual components of a national campaign, which is pretty standard in this market. All states and territories work with them. We are working with them on this campaign because we want to have a national overview of it.

Senator FARRELL: When did this arrangement start with Helloworld?

Ms Harrison : It kicked off in February.

Senator FARRELL: How were they selected? Obviously, there are lots of companies in Australia who could provide this sort of service. How were they selected to do this particular part?

Ms Harrison : Because they have a national footprint. We're also working with Flight Centre; that campaign is kicking off in April. We're working with Luxury Escapes, which is another operator that has gained a lot of traction in this market and offers some really great packages around Australia. That's kicking off in May. We're working with Accor. I think know where you're going with this. But they are one of the—

Senator FARRELL: Don't assume you know where I'm going with it.

Ms Harrison : Okay. I won't then.

Senator FARRELL: Did these companies you have just mentioned come to you and say, 'Look, we'd like to do this dollar-for-dollar arrangement'? Or did you put something out into the marketplace inviting tenders?

Ms Harrison : As I said, we haven't worked in the domestic market since 2013. So we didn't have any existing relationships here. We went out to all of our state and territory partners and asked: 'Who do you work with on a regular basis? Who do you find effective? Who gives you the best return on investment?' They gave us a list, and we collated the ones that most people worked with, because they will have existing product on their systems, and these were the companies that came to the top as part of that.

Senator FARRELL: Right. So there wasn't a typically tender process that occurred here?

Ms Harrison : No. We don't that when we're selecting our partners. We look at the partners who have the most opportunity to speak to our target audience and convert that booking and drive it into the regions that need it.

Senator FARRELL: Obviously, the states provided you with a variety of proposals or suggestions.

Ms Harrison : Correct.

Senator FARRELL: Have you got that list?

Ms Harrison : I do.

Senator FARRELL: Would you be able to make that available to us?

Ms Harrison : I'll take it on notice. I'll give it to you. I have—

Senator AYRES: Sorry, you said you do have it now?

Ms Harrison : No.

Senator AYRES: Not on you.

Ms Harrison : It is work that was undertaken to determine who the best partners would be. It's sitting in a spreadsheet in our Sydney office.

Senator FARRELL: Okay. You're happy to look at providing that to this inquiry?

Ms Harrison : Sure.

Senator FARRELL: You can then also tell us which companies on that list you selected to partner with you.

Ms Harrison : Yes.

Senator FARRELL: Thank you.

Senator AYRES: The companies you mentioned—Accor—who else was there?

Ms Harrison : These are the ones we have in the first tranche: Top Parks—they're owned by Discovery Parks. They're like an OTA for holiday parks—Helloworld, Virgin Australia, Flight Centre, Luxury Escapes, Accor and Qantas.

Senator AYRES: Let's pick one name out of them, just for example: Helloworld. What is the nature of the arrangement with them?

Ms Harrison : It is a partnership where we put a dollar in and they put a dollar in, and we do a national campaign, which is through paid social, online TV content, assets, digital and product through their stores—and they sell it.

Senator AYRES: Dollar for dollar, how many dollars?

Ms Harrison : Can I say that?

Senator AYRES: If you know the answer, you can say it.

Ms Harrison : I will take that on notice.

Senator AYRES: Is it a—

Ms Harrison : It's commercial in confidence. I don't want to—

Senator AYRES: You say: 'I'll take it on notice. Yes I can tell you.' Then you say: 'I will take it on notice. It's commercial in confidence.' It seems the answer is receding. Are we talking about $1,000? $100,000?

Senator Birmingham: Senator Ayres, Ms Harrison never actually said, 'Yes, I can tell you,' for starters, so you're verballing there.

Senator AYRES: I think she was about to tell me, Minister.

Senator Birmingham: I certainly didn't interrupt, and obviously—

Senator AYRES: I'm not suggesting you tried to stop her.

Senator Birmingham: No, but Ms Harrison has taken it on notice. When Tourism Australia negotiates with any of these commercial partners, it is about getting the best value for money for the Australian taxpayer in terms of the reach and impact of the marketing campaigns that are undertaken. As part of this campaign, they're still negotiating with others. It's not unreasonable to take it on notice.

Senator AYRES: What's the nature of the promotions or activities that are undertaken in this partnership?

Ms Harrison : It's a national campaign that is going to be delivered through digital, through social and through in-store activations.

Senator AYRES: What sorts of things? I think I understand most of those terms. I'm just a country boy. I don't really know about all this digital stuff. Promotions for Helloworld: is that—

Ms Harrison : No, no, no. It is promotions for Australian experiences and holidays.

Senator AYRES: Through their platforms?

Ms Harrison : No. Their platforms, yes, but, in addition, they buy advertising. They buy a whole media plan that we sign up to. It is through print and through digital. And it is not advertising Helloworld; it is advertising Australian travel experiences that are bookable through Helloworld.

Senator Birmingham: Just as they're bookable through Flight Centre, or just as they're bookable through Accor and all of the other partners as well where—

Senator AYRES: I understand your sensitivity about the individual example, Minister. But—

Senator Birmingham: I think you're at risk of playing games unnecessarily.

Senator AYRES: For Tourism Australia, the nature of the partnership is that it promotes people booking with an Australian vendor—if I can say it that way—and for them the nature of the partnership is expanded scale and access to markets. That's how it works?

Ms Harrison : It means that they can simply buy more media. If we're partnering with them, they have a bigger program.

Senator AYRES: There's a scale issue and there's a price issue.

Ms Harrison : That partnership marketing is a very standard way of working, and we work that way across the globe as does many other tourism organisations.

Senator AYRES: What's the selection process?

Ms Harrison : It's around who has the scale and the reach to our target audience. We do—

Senator AYRES: Sorry. I understand that you think that the companies that you've outlined are the right companies to partner with, but what are the principles that guide that selection process? How do you choose one company over another? It's public money that's involved. What's the process you use to do it?

Ms Harrison : We're very aware that there's public money involved. That is why we have very well documented partner-selection criteria and we weigh everybody up against those criteria. It's very well—

Senator AYRES: Sorry to interrupt. When you say 'we', who does?

Ms Harrison : My team and I.

Senator AYRES: So the decision is yours ultimately?

Ms Harrison : Yes, yes.

Senator AYRES: Ministerial sign-off?

Ms Harrison : The minister will sign off on partnerships above a certain amount, so we have delegations. If it's a delegation up to my amount, then I will sign off on it. If it's a delegation—

Senator AYRES: What's that amount, Ms Harrison?

Ms Harrison : It's $1½ million for me.

Senator AYRES: So above $1½ million requires ministerial approval?

Mr Craig : Board.

Ms Harrison : Board.

Senator AYRES: Board approval, and then ministerial approval?

Ms Harrison : That's correct.

Senator Birmingham: I don't think I've ever signed off on a proposal. I'm not sure what the ministerial threshold is, but I don't think it's been reached.

Senator AYRES: Can I take it from Mr Birmingham that there hasn't been a proposition that's more than $1½ million?

Ms Harrison : There are for our media tenders and big long-term contracts, but not for—

Senator AYRES: But that's not what we're talking about here?

Ms Harrison : No; these ones are smaller in nature. They come in my delegation.

Senator Birmingham: I stand corrected—maybe one or two.

Senator AYRES: We're talking about different things, aren't we?

Ms Harrison : We are, yes.

Senator AYRES: You're signing off on tenders that are other kinds of propositions. For the purposes of the kind of program that Ms Harrison is talking about, it's less than $1½ million. Can you give me that information that you suggested that you would on notice?

I'd like a list of the companies and the size of the contracts. If a 'commercial in confidence' assertion is being made to say no, I want an outline of why and an outline of the approval process. And I want that information for 2018-19 and 2017-18. Does that make sense?

Ms Harrison : We weren't in the domestic market in 2017-18 or 2018-19, so I can't provide that.

Senator AYRES: What date did you start?

Ms Harrison : On 23 January this year.

Senator AYRES: Okay—so from then to now.

Ms Harrison : This is all just rolling out right now, so I can give you that information when we have determined who we are working with.

Senator Birmingham: The nature of these partnerships is not new; it's just that usually you would be doing them with international businesses rather than those with a significant domestic Australian footprint.

Ms Harrison : Yes.

Senator AYRES: And just to be clear: 'commercial in confidence' isn't a claim for withholding information from the committee. You can take it on notice if you like, but we are entitled to that information; it is not a barrier.

Senator Birmingham: I want to make sure we provide as much transparency on this as we can. I'm also conscious that we don't do anything that weakens TA's ability to negotiate effectively. Ms Harrison has taken the question on notice. She'll come back to the committee—

Senator AYRES: And you'll table the selection criteria as well.

Senator Birmingham: and diligently provide you with a response in the terms you've requested. Also, if there is a need to do some private briefings, if it comes to that, we can look at that pathway too.

Senator AYRES: Thank you.

Senator FARRELL: I want to come back to the international marketing fund of $25 million. Mr Craig, you seem to have all the good figures, so perhaps you can tell us how much of the $25 million has been spent to date.

Mr Craig : On the international account—I don't have a breakdown of that, so I would refer you to the numbers I gave earlier across all four streams. But $10 million of it is going to be spent this financial year and $15 million will be spent next financial year.

Senator FARRELL: And you don't know whether any of that money has gone out the door yet?

Mr Craig : I don't have that.

Senator FARRELL: If it went back to your office, would you be able to find out that information?

Mr Craig : I'm sure I'd be able to do the detail. As I said, we only received the funding this week and $3.2 million has gone out. We do have $8 million in the system, but obviously we won't make the payments until we get the invoices in.

Ms Harrison : Can I just add that we have pivoted existing funds as well. So the campaigns, as I've said, are in production and rolling out right now. So this additional money is about boosting that, but we are already spending in market.

Senator FARRELL: I understood that. Of the $25 million, $10 million is over this financial year—so in the next four months. What's the breakdown for the remaining $15 million?

Mr Craig : It's next financial year—from July.

Senator FARRELL: How much has been spent on the International Media Hosting Program? You'd have to look up the figures?

Mr Craig : Yes.

Senator FARRELL: You can give us all that breakdown. Again, is that over the next 18 months as well?

Mr Craig : Yes, effectively. It is $6 million up to the end of June and $3.5 million post June.

Senator FARRELL: So that's going out a bit faster, proportionally, than the international fund? Is that fair to say?

Mr Craig : That's the way we've budgeted for it.

Ms Harrison : When we first started this, it was really around just getting people to Australia as quickly as possible to tell our story. We front-weighted this campaign.

Senator FARRELL: That makes perfect sense. The tourism exchange is obviously the same. You can give us some information on that.

Ms Harrison : That will all be spent in May.

Senator FARRELL: In May, will it?

Ms Harrison : In fact, some of that has been spent already. A significant proportion of the $6.5 million was around the refunding of seller fees. That was incredibly gratefully received by delegates, because it is a big cost for small businesses; sometimes it is their biggest marketing cost. We are in the process of refunding that money right now.

Senator FARRELL: And that money too arrived just this week?

Ms Harrison : We've just used other funds, and then we will top it up. We just wanted to get the refunds out ASAP.

Senator FARRELL: Money is fungible, isn't that what they say?

Senator Birmingham: Cash flow is manageable.

Senator AYRES: I've heard a few businesses tell me anyway!

Senator Birmingham: It's not so manageable for some at present.

Senator FARRELL: And when you're producing this information you'll give us something on the Regional Tourism Events Initiative and the Global Diplomatic Network?

Ms Harrison : That's Austrade.

Senator Birmingham: It's the same committee, so you can put the questions on notice. But the questions on the regional fund are for Austrade and the diplomatic question is for DFAT and Austrade.

Senator FARRELL: So that $5 million is not part of the $76 million?

Senator Birmingham: Yes—$61 million Tourism Australia, $10 million Austrade and $5 million DFAT with a little bit of Austrade.

Senator FARRELL: Minister, I would ask you if you want to give us an update on the Tourism 2030 strategy, but it is getting late in the day and I might call it quits.

CHAIR: We're just going to suggest 'no' for an answer!

Senator Birmingham: I'm going to speak with my state and territory colleagues about that tomorrow.

Senator FARRELL: I'll watch with bated breath!

Senator Birmingham: Indeed. I can give you an update at the tourism awards tomorrow night.

Senator FARRELL: I'm looking forward to it.

Senator Birmingham: Over a drink. They'll probably be serving Canberra wines.

Senator FARRELL: I've got some bad news: I've given up alcohol for Lent. So it will have to be a soft drink, I'm afraid.

Senator Birmingham: You must have been bad in the last year, Senator Farrell!

CHAIR: Senator Farrell, you've just closed your folder. Could I invite you to—

Senator FARRELL: Reopen it?

CHAIR: close something else?

Senator FARRELL: That's the end of my questions. Thank you, Minister; and thank you to Tourism Australia.

CHAIR: You're a good man! That concludes the committee's examination of Tourism Australia and the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. I thank Ms Harrison, officials from Tourism Australia and all the portfolio staff. I thank Minister Birmingham and Minister Payne. I thank Hansard, Broadcasting, the secretariat and my colleagues. Good night, all.

Committee adjourned at 22:42