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Wednesday, 27 May 1987
Page: 3400

Mr GAYLER —Will the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism inform the House about the lastest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures on visitor arrivals in Australia and what the Government is planning in moves to follow up these figures?

Mr JOHN BROWN —Following on the Treasurer's second last answer, may I say that the figures that have been released today indicate that in another area the Government's policies not only are on target but are succeeding beyond even our most optimistic dreams. Let me tell the House that the figures for visitor arrivals in Australia for the first two months of this year show a 54 per cent increase from the United States of America, a 42 per cent increase from Japan and an overall increase from all destinations of 33 per cent, which is just 30 times the world average, including the most successful tourist countries. If anybody in this House wants further indication of the success of the Government's policies, there it is in black and white for all to see. The statistics show that we had 287,000 visitors to Australia in January and February of 1987 as against last year's figure of 216,000. To put that in its proper context, in the last year of the previous Government's reign, the number of international visitors to Australia was something less than 900,000. This year the figure for international visitors will be 1.7 million, next year it will be 2.2 million and by the year 2000, using a very modest growth factor, it will be 5 million. If honourable members want to know how modest the projection is, we are using a projected growth rate of 10 per cent, as against the present 33 per cent.

Mr Reith —What about penalty rates?

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Flinders will cease interjecting.

Mr JOHN BROWN —It has been the consistent cry from honourable members opposite that our success has been due simply to the fall in the value of the dollar. That may well have been relevant when it was worth US53c. It is now worth US72c, and the number of visitors is increasing even more. Had the Opposition still been in government, I can tell the House what would have happened with this increased number of tourists. The infrastructure that was left in place by the Opposition when we came to government would not have accommodated one additional person. But, because we instituted Government policies of an increase in the depreciation rate from 2 1/2 per cent to 4 per cent and removal of the silly Foreign Investment Review Board guidelines of the previous Government which precluded international investment, we now have in Australia the best tourism infrastructure in the world, with $9,000m worth presently under construction.

Mr Reith —Fringe benefits tax, capital gains tax, high interest rates-you have done a lot.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! I warn the honourable member for Flinders.

Mr JOHN BROWN —I will give him a decent warning one of these days.

Madam SPEAKER —The Minister will just get on with answering the question.

Mr JOHN BROWN —He is the man who proudly proclaims he was the chairman of the penguin parade. He is the man who was intent, with his stupid land developers on Phillip Island, on destroying every penguin rookery on the island.

Mr Spender —I take a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister should be told to withdraw what he has just said, taking advantage as he has of the fact that you have warned the honourable member for Flinders. The honourable member for Flinders cannot reply and the Minister therefore thinks that he has a free kick. He should be told to withdraw what he said.

Mr JOHN BROWN —No withdrawal, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER —The Minister should withdraw if the honourable member finds it offensive.

Mr JOHN BROWN —If he finds it offensive, I withdraw. He is unlikely to disprove it, though.

Madam SPEAKER —Is the Minister continuing his answer?

Mr JOHN BROWN —I just add that if every member of this House took the same interest in tourism as does the honourable member for Leichhardt-he has seen the extraordinary growth of tourism in his electorate in north Queensland, particularly in Cairns-maybe the gloom and doom that pervade the other side of the House would not be so great.

To answer the second part of the question, about what we propose to do to capitalise on this great growth, we intend to do plenty more of the same-that is, to promote Australia in every part of the world, through the recently redesigned, slimmed down and much more commercially oriented Australian Tourist Commission, as the best holiday destination in the world. But, more importantly, to capitalise on the huge international investment in tourism infrastructure in Australia, I will be leading an investment mission to Japan in July. I noted that when that was announced the honourable member for Flinders put out a childish, churlish Press release that talked about a jaunt. Let me tell the House that the business community of Australia does not think that it is a jaunt. This will be a very innovative investment mission. It is the first one being paid for by those people going. It is not being paid for by the Government; it is being paid for by those people who want to go. At present 15 of the leading business houses in the tourism investment area have paid their $10,000 deposit to go with me to Japan to encourage even more Japanese investment in Australia. So much for the honourable member's description of this as a useless jaunt!

It if fair to say that tourism is now the biggest industry in Australia. It is growing at an enormous rate, simply because of the policies which this Government has developed. It will continue to grow and continue to be an answer to many of the economic problems with which the previous Government left us. It had no answers, no wit, no imagination and no estimation of the potential of this country as a tourist destination. It is now the most quickly growing and the most successful tourist country in the world.