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Wednesday, 27 June 2001
Page: 28797


Ms HALL (11:50 AM) —I second the amendment to the Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill 2001. I rise to support the amendment. Whilst we are not declining to give the bill a second reading, we are very concerned about the two issues that the shadow minister has raised and the two points that are in our amendment. One is that we are concerned at the government ignoring the concerns of the tourism industry in this matter and that it has failed to consult on viable funding options for the Australian Tourist Commission. The other is the breaking of its promises on tax.

The legislation, as such, increases the passenger movement charge from $30 to $38. That will take effect as of 1 July this year. It has been put to us that this legislation is to combat foot-and-mouth disease and protect the Australian agricultural industry which is a very important thing to do. In noting actions to protect Australia from foot-and-mouth disease, I must mention the activities of the Maritime Union in the Hunter where they refused to take some contaminated farm machinery from one of the ships that came into the port. Their action did a lot to help protect Australia and keep foot-and-mouth disease out of this country.

In moving on, I would like to mention that this passenger movement charge will be collected by the airlines and the shipping companies. That will happen at the time or point of sale of the tickets. There is an agreement with the Commonwealth that the airlines and shipping companies will then pass that money on to Customs. I do not see this as a charge: rather I see it as a tax. As the amendment that I just read points out, this government has promised not to increase tax, but in fact it is one of the highest taxing governments that Australia has ever seen. It is the government that introduced the GST that is a tax on all Australians every day of their lives. It taxes Australian people in every way on every day. This is a government that has delivered high taxes to the Australian people and now it is hitting—


Mr Slipper —You are misleading the chamber. Be honest.


Ms HALL —Now it is hitting the Australian people and visitors to Australia with a 21 per cent—


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Andrews)—Order! The honourable member for Shortland will resume her seat. The honourable parliamentary secretary will withdraw that comment.


Mr Slipper —She is being deliberately economical with the truth. I withdraw the statement I made and replace it with an allegation that she is being deliberately economical with the truth.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The parliamentary secretary well knows that, when a member is asked to withdraw, the withdrawal be should be done without qualification. I ask the parliamentary secretary to do so.


Mr Slipper —I so do, Mr Deputy Speaker Andrews.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Thank you.


Ms HALL —Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker Andrews, for your support on that matter. The passenger movement charge—or tax as I like to call it—is a 21 per cent taxation hike. This is what this government is delivering with this legislation. The really unfortunate part of it is that the tax will be collected by the tourism industry and none of that tax is going to that industry. I have already acknowledged the importance of protecting Australia from foot-and-mouth disease, but I think it is very important that we look after what is one of the growth industries within Australia. It is the industry that is the tax collector for the government in this instance. It is an industry which will be affected by collecting the tax and an industry that stands to benefit in no way whatsoever.

In 1998-99 the government increased the passenger movement charge by $3 to meet Olympic related costs of people and equipment movement. That money went directly to the industry: the industry collected the money and the industry benefited from the money. The Olympic Games are over and that $3 tax is still in place. It was supposed to be a temporary measure, but it has become permanent. The money is now being directed not to the industry but to consolidated revenue. The tourism industry has missed out there.

The tourism industry is such a vital industry in Australia. I find it very sad that we have a government that does not have a commitment to the tourism industry. It is only giving $10 million over four years. It is so disappointing—really disappointing—that the government did not consult with the Australian Tourist Commission or the tourism industry at all before implementing this legislation. I understand that, initially, the airlines and the shipping companies were very concerned that they would have to wear the cost of the increase on tickets that had already been sold. This has been sorted out, but other issues have not. The tourism industry see the government as being arrogant in the extreme—arrogant in the way that it does not consult and it does not listen. It is a very self-righteous government, a government that is imposing things upon the Australian community and Australian industries with no consultation. We all know that the best results are achieved through consultation. The best results are always achieved if you talk to people and to industries and you bring them with you. Unfortunately, yet again—and, since I have been here, there have been many incidents like this which we have seen in this parliament—we have this government, the Howard government, pushing something through without adequate consultation.

Prior to the budget, there was talk that the tax would be $10 and that $2 of that would go to the tourism industry. It was only talk. The government obviously did not get back to the industry. When the tourism industry saw the budget papers, they were outraged. I do not think they would have been as upset if there had been some consultation, if they knew about the money that they thought they were going to get for their part in collecting the tax for the government. But to find out in this sneaky way, they felt that they had been tricked by the government.

The industry feels that its viability is being threatened. It is an industry where we should be promoting growth and export earning. It is an area that I know most of us have targeted within our electorates, particularly an electorate like mine, which has a changing industry base and which is looking at making tourism one of the major industries in the area. Australia has some very unique features which make it an excellent tourist destination.

What we should be doing is getting behind the tourism industry and supporting them in every way we possibly can. We should be looking at the tourism industry replacing some of the industries that have declined over time. The way I see it is that it is of considerable concern when we have a government that is undermining an industry at every opportunity it can, and we only have to look at the financial commitment that the government has given to the tourism industry, through the Australian Tourist Commission, to see that the advertisements that are being conducted overseas have had to be cut. I was absolutely astonished when I heard the shadow minister for tourism speaking of the impact that the slide of the Australian dollar has had on promoting Australia overseas. It really brought home to me that, whilst Australia may be a cheaper destination now, we still have to advertise our country overseas and we still have to let people that live in other countries know about what we have to offer. This has all been jeopardised by this government's action.

As I have said, this is one of the industries that are most important to the Australian economy, and I am very upset about the government's lack of commitment to it. We have a minister who has really not been in touch with the important players within the industry, and this is having a major effect on the future of this industry, which is vital to the Australian economy. When the shadow minister was speaking about advertising, he was saying that $84 million has been put aside for the year 2003-2004 and that $10 million has been given over four years. I then thought about advertising and what this government are spending now on advertising their own policies, advertising that is designed to get them re-elected. Then I thought: $20 million a month on self-promotion yet they can only allocate $84 million for the year 2003-2004; $84 million to create jobs, develop an industry, stimulate our economy and support the Australian people; $20 million a month for their own re-election campaign. So $20 million to see that they are re-elected and $84 million to promote tourism—it is a very sad state of affairs.

Whilst I have concentrated to a large extent upon the impact that this legislation will have on the tourism industry, upon the government's failure to actually support that industry and upon the fact that this is another tax, an example of this government's broken promise, and a return to an effective 21 per cent increase, it is also important to acknowledge that Australia should be protected from foot-and-mouth disease. We in the Labor Party are very supportive of that. We do not want to see here scenes of what happened in Britain; we do not want to see here examples of what happened in Britain, so that part of the legislation we support. But we are terribly, terribly, terribly disturbed about the fact that the government has not consulted and that this legislation could have an impact on the tourism industry that the government has not accounted for.

Why do we have to look at this measure? It is because the government has whittled away the surplus by trying to buy votes. This came about when they got a bit of a scare in Western Australia, when they became hysterical in Queensland after the results there which just about annihilated the Liberal Party, and when they were defeated in the Ryan by-election. Over 12 months the government has decimated the surplus by pulling $20 billion out of it. They have done this with their roll-back or roll-over whereby they have removed the excise on petrol, done an enormous backflip on the beer excise and moved to some extent to deal with the complaints of small business.

The GST has had an enormous impact on small businesses because they are the tax collectors for the government, and now the government is making the tourism industry the tax collectors for the passenger movement charge. This is a government that just reacts and, as you can see from what I have just said, it reacted to the voter backlash in those areas. It does not plan. As the shadow minister for small business and tourism was saying, we need to have a review of the tourism industry, evaluate it and put in place proper plans. We should not just react to whatever is the flavour of the month, but that is what this government is best at—it is best at reacting and trying to trick the Australian people.

When this government is faced with a problem, it looks at a way to impose a new tax on the Australian people. This is a high taxing government and one that outsources tax collection—and in this case it has outsourced it to the tourism industry. This is a high taxing government which presents itself to the Australian people as one that is cutting taxes, when in fact it is increasing taxes or slipping in new ones at every possible opportunity. The Howard government tries to trick the Australian people whenever it can. It is a mean and tricky government. This legislation on passenger movement charges will be sold as a government initiative to combat foot-and-mouth disease when in fact it is an increase in the tax on tourism. It is a tax which the tourism industry collects, one which it gets nothing for, and one which the Australian people pay for.