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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
20/10/2016
Estimates
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PORTFOLIO
Tourism Australia

Tourism Australia

[10:08]

CHAIR: I welcome Mr John O'Sullivan, Managing Director, and officers of Tourism Australia. Do you wish to make an opening statement, Mr O'Sullivan?

Mr O'Sullivan : No, Senator.

CHAIR: Given that this weekend we are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first landing on Australian soil by the Dutch explorer, Dirk Hartog, in October 1616, can you lead off by telling us what specifically Tourism Australia is doing to celebrate this incredible achievement?

Mr O'Sullivan : Like most significant events of that nature, Tourism Australia supports that through our social media platforms and social media channels. Those social media channels have reach. Our Instagram account is just under three million. Our Facebook account is over eight million. Our Twitter account is up to almost half a million people. Then we move into China, where we have outlets such as NICE, Weibo and Sino WeChat. Using those platforms we celebrate events like that or like the 100th anniversary of Taronga Park Zoo, which has just recently passed. So it is a great way of communicating with that new audience both here in Australia and overseas who really do like that digital environment.

CHAIR: I will have to put a pic on my Facebook page on Saturday. Thank you.

Mr O'Sullivan : You're welcome.

Senator McCARTHY: Mr O'Sullivan, I would like to talk about the passenger movement charge and the backpacker tax with you in this next session. Over the past year, Australia welcomed 7.99 million visitor arrivals for the year ending August 2016—an increase of 10.9 per cent. Does Tourism Australia expect this trend to continue?

Mr O'Sullivan : We are certainly seeing from talking to the industry offshore and our trade partners offshore that bookings are very healthy moving into the forward quarters of this financial year. I note that Tourism Research Australia have also indicated they still anticipate that the growth will occur for international arrivals. Certainly we are hearing from the industry that bookings are very healthy.

Senator McCARTHY: Does Tourism Australia have any concern about the impact from an increase in the PMC on Australia's competitiveness as a tourist destination?

Mr O'Sullivan : We see Australia as a very competitive destination from a tourism perspective, and that has been translated in the arrivals figures that we have seen to date. We have seen out of markets like the United States, China and the United Kingdom very solid growth in numbers and, again, we are hearing very solid bookings. We would have to wait as to any impact that may or may not come from a change in that passenger movement charge to see if there is any impact of that nature.

Senator McCARTHY: Is Tourism Australia concerned about the fact that Treasury undertook no modelling on this measure?

Mr O'Sullivan : It is not my job to be concerned. My job is to market Australia and play within the ground rules that exist.

Senator McCARTHY: So you are not worried at all?

Mr O'Sullivan : As I said, it is not my job to be worried. It is my job to market the country.

Senator McCARTHY: Numbers for working holiday-makers are down and Treasury modelling on both the 32 per cent tax rate and the 19 per cent tax rate suggest backpacker numbers could continue to decline by 60 per cent. Has Tourism Australia received any type of briefing or advice on the impact of the backpacker tax by any government department?

Mr O'Sullivan : I would have to take that one on notice. No.

Senator McCARTHY: Is that a no to that question?

Ms Halbert : We have not received any formal briefing.

Senator McCARTHY: No briefing whatsoever?

Ms Halbert : From other government departments on the impact—

Senator McCARTHY: of the backpacker tax.

Ms Halbert : No.

Senator McCARTHY: Have you requested any briefings around it?

Ms Halbert : No, we haven't.

Senator McCARTHY: Given numbers have been trending down over the past few years, what changes has Tourism Australia made to its marketing strategy to promote Australia as a destination for working holiday-makers?

Mr O'Sullivan : We have instituted some new creatives specifically targeted towards the working holiday-maker visa. What we know about the working holiday-maker visa is that they look for a combination of jobs and experiences, and they consume that on digital channels. We are currently putting together a campaign which will be targeted predominantly in the first phase for the remainder of this financial year in markets like the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany that really specifically target that audience on the social media channels and digital channels on which they consume that. We are doing that in partnership with a number of states and territories and also with members from the industry.

Senator McCARTHY: Has Tourism Australia been consulted in any way with the preparations or the discussions around the backpacker tax with anyone outside of the government departments?

Mr O'Sullivan : That is a pretty broad question. Can you narrow that down for me a bit?

Senator McCARTHY: Has anyone spoken to you or consulted with you about changes to the backpacker tax?

Mr O'Sullivan : We have been informed of the changes of the taxation regime around working holiday-makers. We have been informed about the additional funding that Tourism Australia will receive. We have then put together, as I said before, a creative marketing campaign which will specifically target that audience, which will be launched later this year, specifically to try and increase those numbers.

Senator McCARTHY: Who advised you about that?

Ms Halbert : We had a role on the interdepartmental committee.

Senator McCARTHY: What is the interdepartmental committee?

Ms Halbert : It is task force that was set-up under Minister Joyce to develop a response with regards to the working holiday-maker taxation proposal. We had a position on that task force.

Senator McCARTHY: So you were consulted; is that correct? You were on the task force?

Ms Halbert : Yes, we were on the task force. That is correct.

Senator McCARTHY: I am trying to understand. Previously you said—

Ms Halbert : There was no briefing but we were on the task force. I guess it depends on definitions. There was no formal briefing. We were an active participant in the task force.

Senator McCARTHY: Would you not have been briefed on the task force?

Ms Halbert : Yes.

Senator McCARTHY: So you would have taken your information from the task force to Tourism Australia in order to make your decisions around planning?

Ms Halbert : Yes.

Senator McCARTHY: Jump Tours, in its submission to the working holiday-maker visa review, noted that the backpackers are at the heart of regional tourism. Has Tourism Australia received any advice from government departments about the impact the backpacker tax will have on regional tourism and local communities?

Ms Halbert : Not specifically, no.

Senator McCARTHY: What about on the task force?

Ms Halbert : Not specifically, no.

Senator McCARTHY: So there was no discussion around regional areas and communities?

Ms Halbert : I would need to take that on notice. I have not been the representative on the task force so I would need to ask our task force representative.

Senator MOORE: Who was your task force representative?

Ms Halbert : It was Tim Mahoney.

Senator MOORE: So this particular group was set up by the Minister for Regional Australia?

Ms Halbert : Yes.

Senator MOORE: And you are not sure whether any discussion about the impact on regional Australia was mentioned in the task force?

Ms Halbert : No, I am not sure.

Senator McCARTHY: Does Tourism Australia have any advice for regional tourism operators who rely on backpackers for their business?

Ms Halbert : Tourism Australia works very closely with tourism operators across the country including regional operators. We are consulting with them as part of the campaign that we are currently developing with regards to working holiday-makers and a broader youth tourism campaign.

Senator McCARTHY: But what advice did Tourism Australia give regional tourism operators about the backpacker tax?

Ms Halbert : It is not our role to give advice about the backpacker tax to the industry.

Senator McCARTHY: So there was no preparation for either way that the decision may go?

Ms Halbert : Our role is to market the tourism industry to overseas visitors in partnership with the industry here.

Senator McCARTHY: So there were no conversations?

Mr O'Sullivan : We have conversations about our marketing campaigns. We do not talk to the industry or operators about taxation regimes; that is not our job. Our job, as I said before, is to market Australia. As I said before, in setting up this working holiday-maker campaign, we have formed an industry group which has members from the industry, regional tourism organisations, national based operators like the YHA. We talk to them about marketing outcomes. We do not brief the industry on taxation regimes; that is not our role. Our role is about growing demand; it is not about informing industry, operators or consumers about taxation. As I said to this committee before about working holiday-makers, we do not market Australia based on taxation; we market Australia based on experiences. Our research tells us that this is what this market particularly looks for when choosing a destination along with what are the comparable employment conditions in their own market. So if you take a market like Ireland, for example, which has suffered quite a severe drop in its numbers of visitors and working holiday-makers to Australia, a lot of that has driven by the fact that those people can actually get jobs in their own market, so they do not take a gap year. They do not need to go and pick fruit in regional Australia or work as a waiter at a restaurant et cetera.

So we do not market Australia based on taxation regimes. We market Australia based on the experiences in the country, the attributes that we know that appeal to our target audience, whether that be food and wine or aquatic and coastal or around Indigenous tourism and the like.

Senator McCARTHY: Are you saying that if regional tourism operators raise concerns about the viability of their business going forward—if they ask for advice about a particular policy, and you, as Tourism Australia, sit on the task force—you do not give any advice to them?

Mr O'Sullivan : It is not our job to talk to tourism operators about taxation advice. It is our job to talk to tourism operators about how they can become involved in our campaigns, which is what we do—we are a partnership marketing organisation. We offer the industry, whether it is around youth campaigns or food and wine campaigns, the opportunity to be part of those campaigns, to showcase their businesses, to showcase their experiences to the global audiences in which we market the country. It is not our job to provide advice on taxation. We work with them on things like their digital capabilities. We do webinars on social media, which we make available for free to the industry, whether they are based in metropolitan parts of the country or in regional parts of the country. But we are not a taxation advice organisation. That is not our job. Our job is about growing demand, and any advice that we give to operators in the industry is based around how they can become part of our campaigns, how they can work with us offshore and how we can help them market their businesses overseas.

Senator McCARTHY: If these businesses are saying to you that their future in tourism is going to be impacted by a particular policy which Tourism Australia has information about, wouldn't it be good business sense to advise them as to how they might best continue their tourism program, irrespective of what the policy may be.

Senator McGrath: Tourism Australia is a promotions body. It would be the role of a body like the TTF, the Transport and Tourism Forum, to undertake that type of advice work. The role of Mr O'Sullivan and his team is purely one of promotion. You will get the same answers for any other similar questions. I am trying to assist you.

Senator McCARTHY: Thank you. I appreciate that. I am just trying to understand that if a business operator is asking for help you just look away?

Mr O'Sullivan : No, we don't just look away. We provide expertise and assistance where our core capability lies.

Senator McCARTHY: You must refer them on to someone, though, to get advice or guidance if you cannot give it to them on such an important issue.

Mr O'Sullivan : The hypothetical question you are posing was just answered by Senator McGrath. There are groups in the tourism sector, such as the TTF and ATEC—

Senator McCARTHY: Is that who you refer them to? You would refer them onto someone else?

Mr O'Sullivan : It is not my job to drive membership of lobby groups. My job is to market Australia. If I have a question from an operator about how they can take advantage of Tourism Australia's new campaign I will give them that advice. I am qualified to do that because I know where we are going to be advertising and I know how much we are going to be able to spend. If you ask me to give you taxation advice, I am not qualified to do that and neither is my organisation. It would be erroneous of me to do that.

Senator McCARTHY: Is Tourism Australia concerned for these regional areas that will suffer as backpacker numbers continue to decline?

Mr O'Sullivan : Our focus is in and around regional dispersal as a whole, it is not just centred on one particular part of the tourism pie, if you like. The working holiday-maker visa people are 200-odd thousand people of a pool of eight million people who come to Australia. They are very important, no question, which is why we will be doing this campaign in those markets, as I explained earlier, but we are focusing on regional dispersal as a general whole. Because not only do we want working holiday-maker visa people to work in businesses in regional parts of Australia, we want high-end visitors from countries from around the world, whether they are 55 and above or 35 and above, to go into those markets and experience those regions as well. The last thing we can afford to do is to have people think that because they have done the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef that they have done Australia as a tourist destination. We do not look at it by demographic market per se; we look at it as regional dispersal as a whole. We will put this campaign into the market by the end of the year, targeted at those geographic markets that I spoke about earlier—

Senator McCARTHY: Is this an ad campaign for backpackers?

Mr O'Sullivan : This will be a specific working holiday-maker visa campaign which will later morph into a broader based youth campaign, which is 18 to 30—about 25 per cent of all arrivals and 44 per cent of all spend. That youth group is a very big group of which this working holiday-maker visa is a very core group as well. So we will start with that and grow out of that as we go through the next couple of financial years.

Senator McCARTHY: As you look at your numbers for tourism to Australia, where would you say the backpacker industry now sits?

Mr O'Sullivan : As I said before, its quantum is 215,000 visitor arrivals out of eight million international visitors that come to Australia. That said, it is a very important market because of the employment opportunities and the assistance they provide to the tourism industry in regional areas. It is a key part of what we do, but it is not the only part of what we do. As you know, part of our objective is to grow demand across leisure visitors as well as business-events visitors. That leisure visitation is about holiday-makers, working holiday-makers and about visiting friends and relatives. The business-events side of it is about those people coming to Australia for associations, conventions and exhibitions. It is part of a broader subset that we market the country to. It is very important; it is one that has suffered a five per cent decline; it is one to which we are responding by putting this campaign into the market by the end of this year.

Senator McCARTHY: Would you have put this campaign at the end of this year anyway?

Mr O'Sullivan : We were looking at a broader youth campaign and we were looking at starting that in 2017, before the end of the financial year. With the additional funding we have been able to secure from government, we will be able to accelerate that to target specifically working holiday-makers.

CHAIR: We were talking at the last estimates about some initiatives on visas and making it easier for Chinese visitors to enter Australia. Can you tell us what, if anything, has been achieved or what you have in the pipeline to increase those opportunities?

Mr O'Sullivan : Visa policy is not a question to Tourism Australia to answer. I will probably had that one over to my counterparts in Austrade if that is okay.

CHAIR: Absolutely.

Ms Madden : I would note that visa policy is the primary responsibility of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection but Austrade is aware of major initiatives and progress since the last Senate estimates. If it would be helpful, I could highlight some of those which we believe facilitate easier arrival. A whole package of measures was announced in the Developing Northern Australia white paper, which facilitated visa improvements. They included: full online visitor visa application lodgement available in China by the end of this year; 10-year multiple entry visitor visas for eligible Chinese nationals, also available by the end of this year; visitor visa applications lodged in simplified Chinese this year.

CHAIR: In the Chinese language?

Ms Madden : Correct.

CHAIR: From overseas?

Ms Madden : Yes. Additionally, separate visa initiatives from July this year allow three-year multiple entry visitor visas for eligible applicants from India, Thailand and Vietnam. Chile will commence in December this year. We also now have fast-track 48 hour user-pays visa processing which has already commenced in China and will be extended to India and to the United Arab Emirates by the end of this year. I would also just like to note that we will have full online visitor visa application lodgement available in India by the end of next year. So there is a lot available, and my colleague can also add further if you would like some information.

CHAIR: That gives me a good overview, I think. Mr O'Sullivan, I want to ask you about this wonderful news of the increasing number of visitors coming into Australia from China. But the lamentable news for me as a Western Australian is the numbers have actually gone down in contrast. I am just wondering what, if anything, you are doing with Western Australian tourism. Are you promoting entities to try and encourage more Chinese tourists to go to Western Australia, particularly given the fact they are in the same time zone, the distances are less and the prices should be the same or less? What are you doing?

Mr O'Sullivan : We are looking at a number of initiatives. Tourism Western Australia and Tourism Australia have a very strong partnership. We have approached this from a number of different fronts. For all of our national campaigns that we have launched in the market since I began in 2014, every state and territory has had a specific creative developed for them which we know aligns to those particular markets. In Western Australia, for example, with the new aquatic and coastal campaign we have imagery of Ningaloo Reef and the whale sharks and Cottesloe Beach out to Rottnest Island, Perth and Fremantle. We did that for each of our campaigns so that, in particular markets where we work with a state, we can actually target consumers with specific creative action for that particular state.

If we then go down to our trade engagement in market, in Perth in Western Australia in early September we hosted Corroboree Asia, which was attended by 500 Asian travel agents that specifically work with Tourism Australia offshore. About seven months ago now, in conjunction with Tourism Western Australia, we made the decision tactically to bring that event to Perth because of the fact that, with the new investment coming in and with new hotel rooms and the resources sector starting to come off, there was an opportunity with that particular market.

On an aviation development front we partner with Tourism Western Australia on a number of fronts, but most notably with China Southern Airlines, which has direct flights into Perth Airport. We recently announced a $1 million campaign in Guangzhou with our key distribution partners and also Tourism Western Australia specifically targeted at supporting those services into Perth. So we work with Tourism Western Australia on those specific initiatives and we will continue to do that. But I will say that as these Asian markets do come to Australia they are fairly new, so what they are doing is they are starting to discover different parts of the country. They will go further west and further south as they mature as markets, and that is what we are working on in the longer term.

CHAIR: There is another area that I wanted to ask you questions about. Obviously international students are a critically important part of our economy now. I think, in fact, it is the largest non-resource-based export income earner for Australia. Obviously when students are here their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters want to come. I want to know what, if anything, Tourism Australia is doing to lever off the high number of international students by way of attracting their friends and relations to come as tourists to visit them.

Mr O'Sullivan : That really comes down to our work in market with our key distribution partners—the travel agents in these markets that we know have high populations of international students in Australia, so markets like China, markets like Hong Kong and the like. Our work is really targeted in on providing that travel opportunity in conjunction with the partner so those families can come and visit their loved ones, and then we also look at targeted campaigns with each state and territory tourism organisation to build on that.

CHAIR: Are you able to track using data from immigration, customs or border protection whether there is an increase in the number of people coming from these countries and extrapolate what the catalyst was and whether the attraction was their family member studying here?

Mr O'Sullivan : The IVS has a line called 'Visiting friends and relatives', or VFR as we call it. That combined with holiday-makers makes up the leisure component, and what we have seen over recent IVSs is that that has been consistently growing. Holiday-makers are still the predominant drivers of growth in the IVS. It was up some 23 per cent, I think, in the last year. But VFR, as you say, is very important in terms of bolstering those numbers, and that is why international education is such an important part of the tourism industry.

Senator MOORE: When did Tourism Australia first learn it would get an extra $10 million for a global youth-targeted campaign?

Mr O'Sullivan : I will have to take that on notice as to the exact date.

Senator MOORE: Okay; you can take that on notice. It only happened last month, Mr O'Sullivan, so—

Mr O'Sullivan : Last month my mother passed away, so I had some other things—

Senator MOORE: I am so sorry, Mr O'Sullivan; I did not know that. Can anybody else in your agency answer the question?

Mr O'Sullivan : That is why I said I would take it on notice.

Senator MOORE: So no-one else at the table can tell us?

Mr O'Sullivan : Let me take it on notice.

Senator MOORE: Does the organisation know where the decision was made for the $10 million to go to Tourism Australia for the campaign?

Ms Halbert : No.

Senator MOORE: Was it through consultation with Tourism Australia? Is anyone aware of whether there was consultation with Tourism Australia before the money was handed out for the program?

Ms Halbert : No.

Senator MOORE: You do not know or there was none?

Ms Halbert : There was no consultation.

Senator MOORE: At this stage, how much discussion has gone on about what shape the program will take—the $10 million campaign?

Mr O'Sullivan : As I said before, we have set up an industry consultation body which includes operators on a national and regional basis. We have discussed that with each of the state and territory tourism organisations and their chief executives. We have provided an overview of our intentions to the last tourism ministers' meeting, which had representatives of—

Senator MOORE: When was that?

Mr O'Sullivan : It was on Friday of last week. Minister Ciobo—

Senator MOORE: So you did a briefing at that ministers' meeting?

Mr O'Sullivan : Yes, we did do a briefing at the ministers' meeting, available for both the state and federal ministers alike.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the briefing, I have had a quick look at the website and it just talks about the fact that you have got it and that was going through there. Does it have any indication of what countries it will target, if it will target particular countries, and how it will target them?

Mr O'Sullivan : I think I answered that question before. It is markets such as Germany, the UK, Ireland—

Senator MOORE: I see that you already have a program looking at Japan and—I have just lost the page; I just pressed the wrong button. But there are already programs looking at—

Mr O'Sullivan : Yes; as I said, the broader youth market is a very big market for Australia. We have worked in youth in a number of markets, both Asian and non-Asian. We have worked with organisations like STA. We have done campaigns like 'Best jobs in the world'. So youth, in and of itself, is not a sector that we have not worked in before. But this is a new campaign targeted at working holiday-maker visa holders.

Senator MOORE: The website indicates that the programs you have done previously in this space of the youth market have included particular issues around working holiday-makers—yes?

Mr O'Sullivan : As I said, the broader youth market includes working holiday-makers because it is 18 to 30.

Senator MOORE: Yes, I understand that. But I am actually trying to find out whether they have done any particular work on working holiday visa holders—that market. And, on your website—

Mr O'Sullivan : A campaign like 'Best jobs' is available to working holiday-maker visa holders. It was available to a youth traveller as well. So the campaigns have been actually generic in their construct because of the age bracket, which is why I was explaining to you that it is 18 to 30. So this will start specifically at working holiday-maker visa holders and then it will morph into youth, which is consistent with what we have done before.

Senator MOORE: Okay—so it is actually the other way around? So the stuff on your website about these programs you have done before was general, with some inclusion of the working holiday market, whereas this particular program is going to start from the working holiday market and morph out? Is that the difference?

Mr O'Sullivan : That is a general way of describing it.

Senator MOORE: The $10 million is over three years. Do you have any idea at this stage how that is going to be spread out over those three years?

Mr O'Sullivan : We will receive $2½ million this financial year, $5 million the following financial year and $2½ million the year after that.

Senator MOORE: And the reporting mechanism?

Mr O'Sullivan : The reporting mechanism will be based on the KPIs that we set with our board and that we set in consultation with our industry working group. We will report against that as we do with all of our campaigns. They will be contained in our annual report as we track those results. We will look through mechanisms such as the IVS and ultimately the number of visas that are issued for this particular subset of visa holders.

Senator MOORE: Does that involve all the state bodies as well?

Mr O'Sullivan : We will set that in consultation with them. But Tourism Australia will set those benchmarks, as we do for all of our campaigns, like we did with food and wine. We set a financial target—

Senator MOORE: Are they public—

Mr O'Sullivan : Yes.

Senator MOORE: in terms of the process. So at this stage—

Mr O'Sullivan : Sorry. Did you say public in terms of the process or public in terms of the targeted numbers?

Senator MOORE: Both.

Mr O'Sullivan : As I said before, we will talk to the industry group that we have established. We will talk to the STOs. We will make a determination of what that target is. We will then measure it and report publicly on it.

Senator MOORE: Right. Is that on the website?

Mr O'Sullivan : It will go on the website—and through things like our annual report and other mechanisms that we choose to use at that point.

Senator MOORE: This is due to kick off now?

Mr O'Sullivan : It is due to kick off before the end of the year, so we are still working up the creative—

Senator MOORE: You are working through that. So it is 2½ grand in the first year—

Mr O'Sullivan : No. $2½ million.

Senator MOORE: So $2½ million in the first year. It would have been a saving, if it were 2½ grand! So that is the preliminary process—and you said that you are hoping to have a first cut of the plan by the end of this calendar year?

Mr O'Sullivan : Yes. Of the creative and the—

Senator MOORE: How often does your board meet?

Mr O'Sullivan : The board meets about seven times a year, and then if we need to do any additional or special board meetings we do them.

Senator MOORE: Right. Have you got a scheduled board meeting before the end of this year?

Mr O'Sullivan : Yes, we do.

Senator MOORE: What is the date of that one?

Mr O'Sullivan : 24 November.

Senator MOORE: Good. Thank you. I just want to go on to the Survey of Tourist Accommodation, which I believe is a departmental issue. We had some answers to supplementary budget estimates in the past about funding the Australian Bureau of Statistics to undertake a proof of concept to investigate a fiscally sustainable alternative to the Survey of Tourist Accommodation.

Mr Boyer : Yes. I think the last time I spoke to this committee I advised that we were exploring the option of a private sector solution to tourism accommodation data collection. As you know, the ABS discontinued funding for the STA in 2013-14. Since then, Tourism Research Australia, which sits in my division in Austrade, and state and territory tourism organisations have funded the STA through a rough COAG split of fifty-fifty. TRA, with the support of the STOs, has gone to tender to see if a private sector solution is available. We did that on 1 June 2016 and we are in the process of looking at the responses that we have as part of that.

Senator MOORE: Who makes the assessment?

Mr Boyer : The assessment for that will be made by a joint tender evaluation panel, which is made up of representatives from both Tourism Research Australia and two state tourism organisations.

Senator MOORE: Are they representative? Do they agree which two of them it will be?

Mr Boyer : Yes.

Senator MOORE: And then they let you know—

Mr Boyer : That is right.

Senator MOORE: after they have had a closed-door meeting?

Mr Boyer : I think it was more that we sought volunteers, and volunteers were provided.

Senator MOORE: My notes say the proof of concept has been completed.

Mr Boyer : The proof of concept has been completed.

Senator MOORE: And we have now received a copy?

Mr Boyer : Yes. It was provided as part of a response to an estimates question on notice two estimates ago, I think.

Senator MOORE: Has the proof of concept been received by Minister Ciobo and considered by the tourism ministers?

Mr Boyer : It has certainly been provided to all tourism ministers through ASCOT, the Standing Committee on Tourism. I believe that it went to the previous minister, Minister Colbeck, rather than Minister Ciobo because of the timing of when it was—

Senator MOORE: Right. It would have been, given the timing of the process. So it has gone to them. Do you know what the consideration process of that is?

Mr Boyer : The consideration was largely driven by the fact that the proof of concept found that what the ABS was trying to do was not going to work, unfortunately. That is why we were driven down the path of looking for a private sector solution rather than an ABS data collection.

Senator MOORE: From the department's point of view, is there any time frame for the next step?

Mr Boyer : Yes, we would expect to finalise our evaluation of the tenders by the end of this calendar year. Because it is a COAG process or a state-Commonwealth process, we then have to go back and have discussions with the states about financing, and a determination needs to be made about whether we continue the survey along those lines.

Senator MOORE: Does that need to be a special agenda item on a COAG tourism ministers meeting, or can this be done without a meeting?

Mr Boyer : I think almost certainly the former. We would obviously need to get officials' agreement before we then go to tourism ministers for a solution. The next tourism ministers meeting is on 24 February.

Senator MOORE: Thank you very much. You pre-empted my next question. That could be tight.

Mr Boyer : It could. There is scope to do things out of session, of course, so it does not necessarily have to be the subject of a formal agenda item.

Senator MOORE: In terms of an aimed date, the next scheduled meeting—

Mr Boyer : It is 24 February.

Senator MOORE: It is 24 February. Chair, when is the next round of estimates?

CHAIR: February.

Senator MOORE: How coincidental! This is an ongoing issue.

Mr Boyer : It is.

Senator MOORE: So there will be more questions then, but it could well be that it could fit into that program.

Mr Boyer : I will be as prepared as I possibly can be.

Senator MOORE: In answers in the supplementary budget estimates 2015-16, in October 2015, Austrade advised:

… Andrew Robb MP, wrote to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, the Hon Steven Ciobo—

they are both previous positions—

in June 2014 requesting a reconsideration of the decision by the ABS to discontinue the STA.

Mr Boyer : Yes.

Senator MOORE: Do we know whether Minister Ciobo has made any representations to the parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer in relation to the STA?

Mr Boyer : I would have to take that on—

Senator MOORE: Minister, that would probably be through the ministerial process.

CHAIR: You would have to take it on notice, I suspect, Minister. You would not know.

Senator MOORE: Thank you, Minister. There are just a couple of questions around that, so we will put that on notice for the minister. I have another bunch.

CHAIR: You keep going.

Senator MOORE: They are just standard ones.

CHAIR: Unless you would like to put them all on notice, of course, Senator.

Senator MOORE: For 10 minutes? No, the world will end! The Hon. Steven Ciobo was appointed Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment in July, following the election. The minister released a statement on 14 October 2016 in regard to a tourism ministers meeting in Hobart. What were the issues discussed at this meeting, and what were the outcomes and the key action points?

Ms Madden : A communique which was agreed by Minister Ciobo as the chair of that tourism ministers meeting with ministers is available on the Austrade website, but I can briefly summarise the key outcomes. These included draft principles that would support national consistency on engaging with the collaborative or shared economy to ensure that Australia is at the forefront of integrating providers into the marketplace. They include commitment to a regional tourism infrastructure investment attraction strategy that has been developed to attract foreign direct investment and encourage dispersal across Australia. There are also discussions and a shared plan around the Australia-China Year of Tourism, which will be next year, 2017, and in-principle support for a tourism trade mission to China that Mr Ciobo, as the federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, is expected to lead and that Tourism Australia, working with others, will be helping to organise. We also had ministers endorse protocols and principles for hosting major sporting events to formalise processes for these events, including contracts, service rights and so forth.

Senator MOORE: Did it talk about competition between ministers for these events?

Ms Madden : There was some brief discussion around that, but I think—

Senator MOORE: I was just wondering if a protocol was being established and whether it took into account that there is obviously a competitive market between states. I will put that on notice, but I am interested in whether it put in anything about the protocol of communication between states when all of them are seeking the one event.

Ms Madden : We are happy to provide on notice the protocols.

Senator MOORE: That would be very useful—what the protocol says.

Ms Madden : But I think it is important to note in this context that in many instances the competition is not between states but, in the first place, between Australia and other countries—for example, Singapore and Canada.

Senator MOORE: Once you have got through that one.

Ms Madden : So what this is trying to do is make sure that we are positioning Australia in the optimal position to secure major sporting events—

Senator MOORE: Which would be the first argument, of course!

Ms Madden : and that was the overriding first principle.

Senator MOORE: I am from Queensland. We like them—we like the events.

Mr Boyer : The only thing I would add to that, Senator, is that that was actually an item brought by the Office for Sport, which sits in the Department of Health.

Senator MOORE: Absolutely. Sport bounces around a bit between the departments.

Mr Boyer : It does.

Senator MOORE: It is back in Health now.

Mr Boyer : So does tourism.

Senator MOORE: So that is an item owned by Sport?

Mr Boyer : Yes. So, when we say we will provide it on notice, we would have to clear it with that agency.

Senator MOORE: We will do that. We will talk to the minister there.

Ms Madden : Senator, the final outcome I just wanted to highlight to you is that the ministers agreed to publish the investment and regulatory report card, which is an initiative under Tourism 2020, the overarching plan for the sector. It is keeping track of how Australia and the tourism sector are going in terms of enhancing supply-side issues around investment and regulation, with a view to making Australia more attractive and more competitive for the future.

Senator MOORE: Was the issue of the backpacker tax on that agenda, in that communique?

Ms Madden : Yes. The backpacker tax was discussed. I would have to check—

Senator MOORE: I apologise. I will check the website to check the communique.

Mr Boyer : It was on the previous tourism ministers meeting agenda. It was discussed at the meeting. I do not believe that—

Senator MOORE: It got a gig in the communique.

Mr Boyer : there was a formal agenda item. But it was discussed.

Senator MOORE: I will double-check that. But it was discussed?

Mr Boyer : Yes.

Ms Halbert : There was a formal agenda item, in the context that we presented the campaign that we are working on.

Senator MOORE: Right—from that perspective.

Ms Halbert : From a Tourism Australia perspective.

Senator MOORE: Okay. Is the Australia-China Year of Tourism something your organisation, Tourism Australia, is working on?

Mr O'Sullivan : Yes, it is.

Senator MOORE: Can we get a briefing from you on what you are doing on that?

Mr O'Sullivan : Right now?

Senator MOORE: No, no.

Mr O'Sullivan : We only have nine minutes; I can talk for 20!

Senator MOORE: No, you would not be able to do the overheads and slides I would need!

Mr O'Sullivan : As you know, Senator, China is a very important market. We are doing a lot of work at the moment in consultation with Austrade and also the CNTA on what the construct of the year looks like. These years are really, really important in so far as they provide legitimacy to the destination for the Chinese travel trade, and that is very, very important, as you would know from your international experience that your markets like China place a great deal of credence in the Australian government seal and anything to do with government. So we are working with the CNTA, who are our counterparts in-market, looking at how we leverage this particular event. We are working with Austrade on the most efficient ways of taking an Australian delegation into market to take advantage of the opportunities. In the last questioning you had of Austrade previously, we talked about Australia Week in China.

Senator MOORE: We did, yes. It sounded good.

Mr O'Sullivan : It was very successful from a tourism perspective. We had over 100 operators that came into market. They did three specific streams. Those types of trade events, particularly attached to an Australian government program, provide a lot of cut-through for us in what is a very, very competitive market, because at the end of the day there are about 130 destinations competing for the Chinese tourist. So this year will be very important.

So we are playing a role in conjunction with Austrade, working very closely with DFAT in-market and also, importantly, the Australian industry, because at the end of the day the Australian industry are the ones that have the most to benefit from this from an economic point of view and from a social point of view, both in metropolitan parts of the country and, as we talked about before, in regional dispersal, because the Chinese market is a market that we are trying to get out of the metropolitan centres—in your state and my state of Queensland, from Cairns down to Brisbane and down to the Gold Coast. We want to try and get Chinese visitors in places like—

Senator MOORE: Mount Isa, Barcaldine.

Mr O'Sullivan : Yes, my dad lived in Mount Isa, so it is ironic, isn't it? We are trying to get this market to go into different parts of the country, so a year like the Australia-China Year of Tourism really does help us. We have seen this year that the United States have had a lot of success, and I am very sure that we will do the same out of that.

It also provides us with an impetus to talk about aviation development and also investment. When I was recently in Chengdu for the World Routes aviation conference, being able to talk to the CEO of Sichuan Airlines about the year of tourism was very important in looking at them trying to get additional services into Australia, whether that be in Queensland, New South Wales or elsewhere.

Senator MOORE: Minister, we will probably contact your office to see whether we can get a more detailed briefing around the whole way it is going to operate in the next couple of months. We will put that through to your office and go through the protocols of getting a briefing, and perhaps with DFAT and Austrade as well to get that.

CHAIR: That would be a good idea.

Senator MOORE: One last question, Minister. I want to finish early. Has Minister Ciobo visited the offices of Austrade, Tourism Australia or Tourism Research Australia since being appointed minister; and, if so, on what dates did those visits occur and what was the nature of those visits?

Senator McGrath: I will have to take that on notice.

Senator MOORE: I thought you might. But I just wanted to put that on notice. There you are, Chair—four minutes early!

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Moore. That concludes the committee's examination of the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. I thank you, Minister, and officers for your attendance, as well as Hansard, Broadcasting and the secretariat. I remind senators that written questions on notice should be provided to the secretariat by next Friday, 28 October. The hearing is adjourned.

Committee adjourned at 22:55