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Wednesday, 10 May 1989
Page: 2171

Senator AULICH —My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories, concerns the current struggling state of Tasmanian tourism compared with the high points achieved under previous Labor administrations in that State. Is the Minister aware that Tasmania's share of international visitors has been flagging in the past few years? Is there anything the Minister can do to assist in increasing the numbers of international tourists to Tasmania?

Senator Newman —Why don't you come down and see it yourself some time?

Senator AULICH —The honourable senator is the major factor in driving people away!

Senator RICHARDSON —I announced some new figures on Australian tourism only last week. Those figures showed that the number of visitors to Australia last year reached 2.25 million, which was well in excess of the prediction of two million for the bicentennial year. If we compare this with the preliminary figures for 1988 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, we see that only 15,100 out of that total of 2.25 million short term overseas visitors to Australia gave Tasmania as their main State of intended stay. That is less than 0.7 per cent of the total number of international visitors.

In recent years there has been a decline in Tasmania's share of tourist arrivals. In 1982, according to the figures available to us, Tasmania actually received about one per cent of the international market. Quite obviously Tasmania has the potential to develop a very significant overseas tourist industry. But from these figures it would seem that the Tasmanian Government in recent years-certainly since 1982-has not been active in trying to increase its share, or even maintain it. Obviously Tasmania has some unique attractions. Perhaps the Gray Government would have better served Tasmania by promoting those magnificent forests and wilderness areas rather than attempting to chop them down and develop them on each and every occasion. That natural beauty and wilderness is obviously the way for Tasmania to go. The benefits to the Tasmanian economy if this were to happen would be enormous.

Tourism is already worth 6 per cent of gross domestic product. It produces 20,000 jobs a year. Even with the failure of the Tasmanian Government, tourism projects completed or under construction as at December last year provided some 1,700 jobs in construction and nearly 400 jobs in operation. Those 2,000 jobs would represent about a quarter of the total employment in the Tasmanian timber industry. I am very confident that, with an increased effort, Tasmania could live up to its potential and be a large employer in the tourism sector.

As an example of the Commonwealth's desire to help Tasmania, a desire upon which the Prime Minister expanded a couple of days ago in another place, it is appropriate for me to tell Senator Aulich and anyone else interested that the Federal Government will give $30,000 on a dollar for dollar basis for a three-month consultancy to investigate ways in which Tasmania can better benefit from the great interest being shown in Australia by overseas tourists. Tasmanian counterparts are being asked to discuss with my officials the terms of reference and the selection of a consultant to undertake the study. It is unfortunate that it has taken so long for the Tasmanian Government to take up this offer. Perhaps, after Saturday, the next Government will take it up much more quickly.