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Wednesday, 27 June 2001
Page: 28781

Mr BAIRD (10:17 AM) —I was particularly interested to hear the member for Corio's speech on the Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill 2001. It was quite amazing to hear him attack the level of the surplus that this government has instituted, having brought about an $80 billion total debt through the deficits that Labor produced in successive budgets. Yet he criticises us for the size of our surplus. Hypocrisy, your name is Labor!

I also found it very interesting that he thundered on about using this mechanism of the passenger movement charge to raise revenue, because I checked when the passenger movement charge was introduced. In fact, it was introduced on 1 January 1995, levied at a rate of $27 per departure. By whom was it instituted and introduced? None other than the government that was in power at the time, represented by the member for Corio. It only takes them a couple of years before they say, `How shocking, how dreadful to use the passenger movement charge to raise revenue.' And who instituted it? The Labor Party when they were in government. It is a breathtaking level of hypocrisy.

He was going along all right. He said this was a good approach; that, in terms of bipartisanship, we needed to take all these measures; and what a problem would be caused if these pests and diseases entered this country. Of course, he went on to say, `You can't use this measure.' We remember the l-a-w claims—that they would never increase taxes during Mr Keating's time in office. What did they do? Of course, they increased the wholesale sales tax right across the board on everything. So it is just stunning when we hear these claims being made. It is as if none of us can check what the details were.

It is also particularly interesting to listen to the member for Corio speak about the impact of foot-and-mouth disease on Europe. It has been devastating right across Europe. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been lost, and very large percentages of herds have been culled, with a devastating impact on the farming community not only in Britain but in many other countries in Europe. Not the least of the impacts has been the impact on tourism. I heard the member for Corio say that there has been a massive impact on the tourism industry. We recognise this, and this is one of the reasons why the action was taken and why you would use the passenger movement charge as a vehicle to recover the cost of instituting these changes. I notice that the member for Hunter, who is going to speak in this debate in a very short space of time—it is just a pity that we did not have the pleasure of listening to his hypocrisy as well—said in relation to the decision to increase the passenger movement charge by $8:

... so you can imagine their anger—

this was after the budget came down—

when they—

the Australian Tourist Commission—

learned that notwithstanding the fact they had been denied additional funding in the budget, the passenger movement charge had been increased, though not to assist tourism but to fund the government's foot-and-mouth program.

This is the member for Hunter, the shadow minister for tourism, saying this. If he does not know what the impact would be if foot-and-mouth disease came into this country, he should be ashamed of himself. Here he is, the person who is supposed to be the shadow spokesperson on tourism in this place, decrying the facts of this. I know that there is a particular tourism group that has been expressing the view that, yes, what the government should do is put up the passenger movement charge and that that could simply be used to fund an increase for the ATC. The change was made and the increase was there, but it went to an absolutely vital part of the tourism industry. So I want to say to the member for Corio and the member for Hunter: let us get this argument on an appropriate basis; let us consider what the impact is across the board. It would be devastating for the agricultural sector if we did not see these changes and it would be devastating for the tourism industry. We would see that instead of the increases that we have been seeing. I note the press release that was issued this very week by the federal Minister for Tourism, Jackie Kelly, which said:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' Survey of Tourist Accommodation March Quarter 2001 revealed a 5.2 per cent increase in the supply of guest rooms in hotels and a 9.4 per cent increase in the supply of serviced apartments, compared with the same period last year.

What would be the situation if we saw an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in this country? We would not be seeing these figures; we would be seeing a massive drop, so if ever an industry sector should be pleased by the initiative the government is taking it is the tourism industry.

I actually hosted a function at which key representatives of the tourism industry from around Australia met with the Treasurer to discuss their concerns. I have to say to you, in all honesty, that not one of them raised this as an issue. Why didn't they raise it? Because they are aware of the importance of this program for the industry. So much for the hypocrisy I hear from the member for Corio and the member for Hunter, who I understand is going to make a change to this. He is going to put an amendment so that we increase the passenger movement charge further—this is despite the member for Corio claiming this was inappropriate—to give a funding increase to the Australian Tourist Commission, which is funded to the order of $100 million a year and of course is part of a four-year program. This government increased funding to the Australian Tourist Commission by some $50 million over a four-year period and so it receives about $100 million a year. That is an overall record in terms of funding—and we have this political charade going on.

I am very pleased to see that the former minister for tourism has entered the chamber, because he was the minister who lobbied to get this $50 million increase over a four-year period for the ATC. We are coming to the end of the four-year period. The increase in funding over the four-year period was very significant and well received, and the then minister was applauded by the tourism industry. He is the one who organised the increase in funding and he did a great job for the tourism industry.

This is an important piece of legislation. I congratulate both ministers. I congratulate the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on suspending imports of all products from FMD affected countries and on providing extra scrutiny of travellers who have recently visited a farm or abattoir and ongoing monitoring of AQIS and Customs border control procedures under the new conditions. It is a first-rate initiative to protect our borders, our livestock and of course the interests of the tourism industry. It is an initiative which I believe serves the country well. X-raying the baggage of all those who have been in affected areas overseas and more intensive checks are appropriate. I know that my colleague the member for Pearce will speak at some length in her usual incisive way on the same issue.

In summary, I believe this is a great initiative. It is about protecting Australia's borders, it is about protecting our livestock and it is about protecting the tourism industry. The games being played by the members of the opposition when they know this is a great initiative, when they know the intent of the bill, are breathtaking in their hypocrisy. The people of Australia know what the situation is and they will remember. When I have my Sunday morning consultations, people say to me, `If the Labor Party gets into power, are we going to have another $85 billion racked up in debt?' I say, `Well, this is their track record.'

Mr Martin Ferguson —What is your track record on infrastructure?

Mr BAIRD —One thing is for sure: my track record on transport is better than yours ever will be, even in your dreams. I shudder at the thought of you being in charge of anything to do with transport in this country. You read all your speeches when you come into the House. Not a single new initiative have I heard come out of your mouth. In the time you have been the shadow minister for transport I have not heard one new initiative come out of your mouth. In responding specifically to the member for Batman and his lack of any knowledge about transport, the rail link—

Mr Martin Ferguson —The financial world tells me about you, and you are a failure.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Order! The member for Cook will ignore the member for Batman and address his remarks through the chair.

Mr BAIRD —I look forward to his further announcements about the airport rail link. I am very proud of that rail link and the people of Sydney are very proud of it. I am very pleased to listen to the member for Batman. He not only reads every single word when he comes into the House but also has not made one statement about transport that anybody can remember. I look forward to his pronouncements in the future. But what we have with this bill is a minister who knows what he is doing. The minister has brought forward real initiatives and is protecting not only the livestock and agricultural industries but also the tourism industry across this country.