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Monday, 2 April 1984
Page: 1069

Senator REID(9.38) —Tonight I want to place on record my pleasure in the work that was done by the Australian Capital Territory Tourist Commissioner, Mr Don Hamence, during the three years in which he held that position. His term of office ended on 31 March 1984 when the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) failed to renew his term of office. Let it be clear that originally he was appointed for a two-year term and that term was extended by 12 months. There is no suggestion that the Minister terminated his employment, but I criticise the fact that his term was not renewed. I think Canberra has lost a great deal as a result of his not continuing in that office, because of the expertise that this man has and the experience he gained during the three years he was Tourist Commissioner.

A former Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Ellicott, realised the potential for tourism in the Australian Capital Territory. He also realised that it was important for the Australian Capital Territory to diversify its economy and develop those areas where jobs could be most readily obtained. No one would ever imagine that the Australian Capital Territory would ever be other than principally a town where the Australian Public Service has the dominating role in employment, but I think that most people would agree that it is important to diversify as widely as possible the employment base to give the widest possible range of opportunities for jobs to young people who are growing up in the community.

Mr Ellicott saw the position of Tourist Commissioner as needing to be in part Public Service and in part not Public Service-at somewhat of a tangent to the Public Service-so that the person who held the job could have some freedom to move in a way that a public servant may not be able to move. The position also needed a person who had an understanding of how the private sector operated and had experience in that area. The person who was appointed was Mr Don Hamence. He had had a distinguished career. Previously he had been with Hertz Rent-a-Car in Melbourne. He had an understanding of both private sector operations and the tourist industry. In fact, the appointment was made subsequently by Mr Hodgman as Minister for the Capital Territory.

As I said, Mr Hamence has held the job for three years since then. In that time the tourist industry in the Australian Capital Territory has developed in a way that cannot be lightly ignored. The number of visitors to Canberra increased by 9.4 per cent in the first year that Mr Hamence was involved in promoting tourism . The number went up by 17.8 per cent in the second year and 24.6 per cent in the third year. That seems to me to be a totally outstanding achievement as a result of the work that he did during his three years in that position. It should not be overlooked that the 24.6 per cent increase in the number of tourists visiting the Australian Capital Territory in the third year represents an increase of 1,500 jobs in the tourist industry in Canberra during that time. That probably makes it the largest employer of labour outside the Public Service .

The tourist industry in the Capital Territory has been let down by the present Minister by his failure not only to reappoint Mr Hamence to his job but also to provide adequate budgetary allocations to the Tourist industry. In last year's Budget $500,000 was allocated to tourist promotion. That was identical to the amount allocated the previous year. There was no increase in the allocation, not even to take account of inflation. Last year the Commonwealth allocated $30,000 to supplement the moneys of the Canberra Visitor and Convention Bureau. That amount is identical to that allocated the previous year. That sum is matched dollar for dollar by the Canberra Visitor and Convention Bureau. Last year its commitment to tourism was such that it provided $50,000, which is in excess of the amount it was required to provide under the provisions of the Commonwealth grant.

During the time that Mr Hamence has been promoting tourism in the Capital Territory he has travelled throughout Australia and overseas in order to produce the results to which I have referred, namely, the percentage increases in the number of tourists visiting the Australian Capital Territory. He has made contacts and has supervised the establishment of offices in both Melbourne and Sydney for the purpose of representing Canberra and promoting the national capital as a tourist attraction. I regret most the loss of the experience he has gained over those three years. I think it is a great pity that the Minister for Territories and Local Government so little understands the need for promoting tourism in Canberra that, apart from not responding to his financial responsibility, he has allowed this man to leave Canberra.

Last year funds provided to the Australian Tourist Commission increased by 75 per cent. That gives some indication of the attitude to tourism of the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) and his understanding of the needs of the industry. Tourist commissions have been set up in most States of Australia but not yet in the Australian Capital Territory, in spite of the very strong recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and the Commissioner for Tourism that a tourist commission be set up in the Capital Territory to ensure that its tourism development continues .

I have no doubt that Mr Hamence will get on well in his future endeavours. He has ability. He has already been offered a number of positions by such organisations as the South Melbourne Cricket Club. Hertz Rent-a-Car has been in contact with him about rejoining that organisation. The Australian Tourist Commission has spoken to him about his taking up a position as a consultant to it. At least the Australian Tourist Commission appreciates what he has to offer to the tourist industry, even though the local Minister does not. I understand that the Northern Territory Government has had consultations with him about his working as a consultant to it. A report in the Canberra Times reads:

The Minister for Territories and Local Government, Mr Uren, acting on advice from his department, decided to not renew Mr Hamence's term after its expiration today.

I wrote to the Minister suggesting that it was an error of judgment to proceed with this course of action. The Minister said in reply:

It is recognised that Mr Hamence has made a contribution to tourism in the ACT.

I regard that as the understatement of the year, when one considers the percentage increases in tourism to which I have already referred. At least the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism appreciates Mr Hamence. Last Thursday night a testimonial dinner was held in Canberra, attended by 140 representatives of the tourist industry. Another 40 people sent their apologies. That indicates a fairly high degree of involvement on the part of Mr Hamence in the tourist industry, and in a sense it reflects the views of its representatives about his being taken away from them in this manner. Mr Brown sent the following telegram to Mr Hamence:

Sorry, prior commitments prevent me from being with you this evening. I could not let the occasion pass however without saying how impressed I have been with the enthusiasm you have displayed for the promotion of tourism in the ACT. My best wishes to both you and your wife for the future.

I hope it is of some consulation to Mr Hamence that at least that Minister appreciates his talents and what he did for the Australian Capital Territory. That this man is now living in Melbourne is a serious and grave loss to the Australian Capital Territory.

I would not wish my remarks in any way to reflect on the man who has been appointed to replace him. I refer to Mr David Dickson who has been managing the National Sports Centre at Bruce. He is an extremely talented person. I have no doubt that he will be able to do the job. No matter how well he does it, tourism in the Australian Capital Territory will be three years behind the position that it should have been had the job been done by the man who has already made the contacts and who has been successful in promoting tourism in the Capital Territory. It is simply my wish to place on record my sorrow that the Minister showed so little judgment in this matter by not ensuring that this man stayed in this community.