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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2083

Mr COHEN (Robertson) - In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Trade and Industry I want to mention the subject of tourism. Tourism like motherhood, is something to which all Government supporters pay lip service. Unfortunately their contribution to the latter is significantly greater than it has been towards tourism. For some unknown reason, tourism has become the Cinderella industry, despite its continued growth, despite its significant contribution to employment, profitability, decentralisation and balance of payments. The attitude of the Government seems to be that tourism is a not quite manly or masculine pursuit for good red blooded Australians who should be occupying their minds and bodies with healthy vigorous industries even if they lose their shirt doing it.

One of the fundamentals of business practice is that if you have a line that is not selling or making a profit, you get out of it quickly and cut your losses or phase out of it into another line that has greater potential. There are humanitarian reasons for supporting certain industries in Australia over the short term but in the long term we must look towards those industries that have growth potential and try to make the transition as quickly and painlessly as possible. The bankruptcy courts and commercial graveyards are full of businessmen who had sentimental and emotional attachments to particular enterprises when all the indicators pointed in the opposite direction. It has been often said that the Government of Australia is like a board of directors of a nation. If this is so then the next annual shareholders meeting should see a new board. The neglect of the tourist industry at the expense of less viable industries is simply bad business, nothing more, nothing less. The myth of the Liberals as a party of shrewd businessmen is clearly exploded in their present misjudgment of business priorities. The growth in tourism is clearly indicated in the 1971 annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony). The report states:

The number of visitors to Australia increased by 14 per cent from 387,197 in 1969 to 440,822 in 1970 while visitor spending rose from St 18m in 1969 to SI 35m in 1970 also an increase of 14 per cent.

The real growth in tourism should exclude the figures for spending by American servicemen on rest and recreation leave in Australia of $20m for 1970, which would give an actual travel credit of $115m. However the report points out that Australians are spending $185m abroad so that there is a deficit of $70m in the balance of payments. With December 1971 seeing the end of R and R spending in Australia there is a growing gap between what comes into and goes out of the country in tourist spending. The total output of our tourist industry for native Australians was valued in 1970 at $2,400m.

Mr AlanGreenway, Chairman of the Australian Tourist Commission, is to be congratulated on his excellent report for, although responsible to the Government, he has not pulled any punches in his letter to the Minister. Whilst pointing out that the primary role of the Tourist Commission is in the area of marketing and research and congratulating the Government on its changed attitudes towards air charter flights into Australia, he indicates his disappointment at the Government's failure to implement regional plans submitted by the Development and Research

Division for the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga and the Great Barrier Reef. The report states:

The Commission has expressed the view in the past, in its 1969-70 Annual Report and elsewhere, that the quality and quantity of Australia's tourist attractions and facilities are in need of urgent attention if our full tourist potential is to be realised. The need for accelerated developmental activity is now all the more urgent if we are to take full advantage of the new markets, which lower charter fares can be expected to guarantee.

It is clear that the Commission is angered at the failure of the Government to act on the 2 development plans presented so far. The first one on the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga area was presented on 30th June 1969, and the second on the Great Barrier Reef on 15th April 1971. Superbly documented and presented, they are comprehensive blue prints for combined governmental and private enterprise initiatives that would place Australia on the road to having a thriving, flourishing tourist industry with its resultant benefits for employment, decentralisation and prosperity for hundreds of thousands of Australians, not the least of them being those most in need of assistance - the unskilled, women. Aborigines, the aged and those who are presently feeling the squeeze of the rural depression.

The Great Barrier Reef plan is an exhilarating, exciting and visionary programme that stresses the need to conserve the flora and fauna, and maintain the Reef as an ecological landmark whilst making it attractive to international and domestic tourists. It points out that much of the present development is cheap and nasty and needs to be redeveloped; that new areas should be developed in a more attractive, sophisticated manner stressing the uniquely Australian character rather than being a poor imitation of the worst of overseas design. It highlights the need for an integrated upgrading of transport facilities, new and expanded, such as airports, better quality highways, cruise craft and the provision of facilities - water, sewerage and electricity. Most importantly, it outlines areas for direct government involvement and the need for incentives for private investment in such out of the way places. This should take the form of tax write offs, depreciation allowances, export allowances and, in some instances, direct subsidies. It offers detailed studies for 6 regions ranging from Cooktown in the north to Maryborough in the south. The report states:

If the Reef is to be preserved, its development must be controlled. Standards must be created and maintained, and the responsibility for such a programme must be fixed in one authority,.

And therefore it recommends the establishment of 'a Barrier Reef Authority to promulgate, monitor and enforce standards of development*. lt is quite impossible to cover the thousands of detailed recommendations made in the report in the time available in the debate, but I can assure honourable members that they can spend an exhilarating evening reading this report. The same applies to the earlier report on the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga Area. As with the Reef plan the recommendation suggests the provision of better airport and road facilities, and so on.

I understand that plans are afoot to present similar development plans for other areas of great tourist potential in Australia, although one must begin to imagine the despondency of those associated with the presentation of these superb reports after the complete lack of action on the Government's part. There are many superb areas crying out for development - the Sydney region reaching up to the Blue Mountains in the west and in my own electorate of Robertson in the north, the central coast area between Newcastle and Sydney with its classic bushlands, beaches, lakes and rivers, the southwest through Berrima down to Canberra and Mount Kosciusko and Mount Buffalo, the Barossa Valley, the apple isle of Tasmania, the Pilbaras and the Kimberleys of Western Australia.

Mr Grassby - The Riverina is a pretty good area.

Mr COHEN - I am sorry. As the honourable member for Riverina says, I should mention the area he comes from. It must be perfectly obvious to anyone who has travelled abroad that a country can no longer rely on its natural assets and the hospitality of its people. International visitors want, I believe, the following things when they visit Australia: Firstly, fast, comfortable and reasonably priced transport - we still suffer due to our distance from the major tourist sources - the

United States and Europe; secondly, first class international standard accommodation; and thirdly, to view, feel, taste and absorb experiences uniquely Australian.

We should encourage development that stresses this uniqueness. Hotels if possible should reflect the Australian idiom in their setting, architecture, decor, food and entertainment. We have had an exciting history of colonial pioneering. We should not be embarrassed or self-conscious about playing up our past. Visitors do not come to Australia to see a cheap imitation of Florida, Hawaii or the Swiss Alps. They want Australia.

Government can play a very real role by involvement in the cultural, historical, educational and scientific areas which will be of equal value to Australians, who are showing greater interest and pride in things Australian, by participating in the development of museums that are not only of value to tourists but also of great educational value to Australia. I recommend to members an excellent article in the 29th May issue of the 'Bulletin' suggesting governmental initiative for a convict museum, a colonial portrait gallery, a museum of Victorian Australia, an Australian museum of natural history, a Captain Cook museum, of the Pacific people, an Australian Maritime museum, an Aboriginal museum, and various other suggestions that would add greatly to preserving and illustrating our heritage. Only a visionary Australian government can see the exciting potential in tourism and commence an aggressive policy of development outlined by the Australian Tourist Commission. One would hope that the new Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities (Mr Howson) will come up with more dramatic recommendations than he did during tourist week when his sole idea was to suggest to Australians that they plant more trees. I have read every speech that has been made on tourism in the last 10 years and I want to compliment the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), who has made the best speech on tourism in those 10 years.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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