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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3063

Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (17:12): My mate the member for Solomon is leaving this chamber as I speak. I am going to say a few words about him. Just you go—all right.

Mr O'Dowd interjecting

Mr SNOWDON: They are all good words. I want to thank him for his contribution. He does speak of matters that need to be addressed in this place. I will not dwell too much on what he said, except to make the point about the passenger movement charge. Clearly, we have had nothing from the Commonwealth to explain to us what they think the impact of this increase in the passenger movement charge will end up being in terms of its impact on tourism visitation. That is a key issue for us in the north of Australia, but in the Northern Territory most particularly, because tourism provides 8.1 per cent of the Northern Territory's employment and 4.5 per cent of our gross state product.

The GSP percentage is the highest of all states. It is only 1.7 per cent in Western Australia and 4.3 per cent in Tasmania. We rely on tourism in terms of our gross state product more than any other state or territory. So when you fiddle with things like passenger movement charges, it has the potential to impact us more than other places.

In 2014-15, visitors spent $1.85 billion in the Northern Territory. In 2014-15, again, international spending grew by 18 per cent to $460 million and domestic spending grew by 3.4 per cent to $1.4 billion. 11.1 per cent of all Territorians in the workforce work in the tourism industry—that is an extremely significant number—compared with the national average of 8.1 per cent across other jurisdictions. Just to emphasise again the comparative importance of tourism to the Northern Territory: almost one in five young tourists who come to Australia visit the Northern Territory, and in 2014 the Northern Territory was the destination of choice for 15.9 per cent of international overnight visitors. Given the size of the Northern Territory, in terms of the population not the landmass, that is a significant number. It is because of the iconic destinations that we have: Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu, both in my electorate, both tourism destinations of renown and both World Heritage areas. But, significantly, tourism visitation to those places has dropped off greatly since 2004-05.

There has been strong growth over the last five years, but the numbers are still down from what they were in 2004. Between 2004 and 2014, total visitor numbers to Uluru fell by 20 per cent. That has a significant impact on the local and regional economies of these places and it impacts directly on the potential for income to be earned by Aboriginal people, the traditional owners of this country, who have a key stake in the tourism industry. In 2013-14 international visitors visiting Uluru numbered 142,000. That is a significant drop from the 200,000-plus visitors in 2008.

This raises significant questions. The federal government is responsible for Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu. If there is a decrease in tourism visitation to those areas, there is obviously an opportunity for the Commonwealth to see what it can do by way of investment to increase the potential for tourism visitation. But we know what they have done. They increased park entry fees in 2016 by 60 per cent. An adult ticket to enter Uluru-Kata Tjuta or Kakadu is now $40. That is potentially a massive disincentive for people in the tourism industry to market these destinations to overseas visitors. It is a cause of great concern when we know that the tourism industry is so important to the Northern Territory economy.

We need to do a lot better and we need to do a lot more. But it requires the Commonwealth to focus on its main job, and that is to promote the tourism industry across Australia, but particularly in the north, and address the issues that need to be addressed in the management and operation of the Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta national parks if we are going to make a difference and encourage more tourists to come along.