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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3061


Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (17:02): I want to thank the member for Capricornia for moving this private member's motion. I share her love of the north if not her party's pretty much destruction of the tourism market when it comes to working holiday makers and backpackers in the Top End—we have seen a 30 per cent decrease. I have spoken to Western Australian tourism operators and they are not happy at all. I understand that this backpacker tax shemozzle has just been an abysmal attempt to try and rake in some more money but unfortunately the tourism and horticulture industries are really suffering, really hurting. If those opposite do like small business, they might want to negotiate something a bit smarter in the Senate—I digress,

Tourism is incredibly important to the north and that is why this has been so disappointing. In my electorate of Solomon, we have the beautiful city of Darwin, which is the gateway for so many people into the north. We have a strong Aboriginal culture, a magnificent harbour, great fishing, markets, breathtaking sunsets and also the Cage of Death. It would be great to throw whoever designed the backpacker tax without any consultation and without any modelling in there because it has done so much damage. Anyway there is a croc in there called Brutus and he is psychic. If I were as psychic as Brutus, I might look forward and say perhaps what the government has suggested as a fix is a backflip on the backpacker tax. In fact, according to their own advice from Treasury, it will not actually make that much difference. I hope there is still time to come up with a regime that makes sense, that attracts people back to the Top End, because, as I said, a lot of those small businesses are really hurting.

In general, we have had an increase of tourism numbers to the Top End, which has been great. Working holiday-makers have stayed way but, in general, domestic tourism is looking good. However, we always need to attract more people to the Top End, because it is becoming a more and more important part of our economy. We have got a big gas project, the Inpex project, in the Top End. As we come out of the construction phase, I think tourism will be one of the shining lights, so I hope we can get something that is going to work better for working holiday-makers, because there is fruit that needs to be picked and pints and coffees to be poured. It is becoming more and more difficult for tourism operators in the Top End. We are missing out on money in our economy.

The Turnbull government talks a lot about assisting small business and the importance of the tourism industry for northern Australia but, unfortunately, it is failing spectacularly in this area. There has been no consideration and not enough consultation—in fact, just before I came in here to make a contribution, I had a phone call from someone involved in the aviation industry. They are still shaking their head over the passenger movement charge and about the fact that everyone flying out of Australia after a holiday is going to be charged more. They are desperately wanting some common sense and wanting the tourism minister to do his job. But, unfortunately, in the other chamber, at the end of the question time, the tourism minister got to his feet to make some pathetic point about unions or something. I have not really heard him make a worthwhile contribution on the tourism sector since I have been here—and I have not been here for that long—but I would have thought that he would have been a little more focused on his day job.

Whilst the National Farmers Federation is coming out and doing the right thing by the National Party, in the tourism industry, no-one is impressed with this backflip on the backpacker tax. So let's hope that we can see some smart thinking in the Senate and we get, as I said, a backpacker tax rate that will get people to come back to the Top End.