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Tourism funding slashed in Labor's Budget.



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Wed, 14th May 2008 TOURISM FUNDING SLASHED IN LABOR'S BUDGET

Steven Ciobo MP Shadow Minister for Small Business, the Service Economy & Tourism

The Rudd Labor Government has turned its back on the tourism industry, with Labor scaling back funding for Tourism Australia, the nation's peak tourism industry, plus introducing $940 million in new tourism taxes.

''At a time when the tourism sector is dealing with challenges from the high Aussie dollar and increase in fuel prices, Wayne Swan has cut funding for Tourism Australia by nearly $6 million in the Budget,'' Shadow Tourism Minister, Steven Ciobo said.

''In the past we've seen State Labor Government's including New South Wales, South Australia and the ACT slash tourism funding in the face of industry pressures, and now Mr Swan has joined the conga line of inexperienced bean counters.

''The tourism sector is sick of being ignored by State Labor Governments, and now Australia has wall-to-wall Labor robbing the tourism industry.

''Staffing levels at Tourism Australia are also being cut back by nearly ten per cent, however Labor's choosing to remain silent on the issue. Where in Tourism Australia will these 20 job losses come from?''

In addition, Labor has effectively halved funding for the Australian Tourism Development programme (ATDP), from $29.9 million to $16 million.

''This is a major blow for the tourism sector, with ATDP promoting tourism development in regional and rural Australia on a merit basis, contributing to long term economic growth and increasing visitor numbers and yield throughout Australia,'' Mr Ciobo said.

''Labor has further milked the tourism sector in the Budget by introducing $940 million in new taxes including the Passenger Movement Charge, the Tourist Refund Scheme, and visa-processing fees, which will affect Australia's $85 billion industry.

''People coming here on a tourist visa will now be forced to pay $100 per application, which is an increase of $25, plus $240 for a visa extension, which has gone up from $215, and $100 for certificates of residency, increasing revenue by almost $180 million over four years.

''This is highway robbery, slugging tourists more to come to Australia, particularly at a time when the Aussie dollar is so high. Labor is treating tourists like some sort of money spinner and sending the wrong message to young people overseas.

''Tourism in Australia employs some 483,000 Australians - it cannot afford a government that has its priorites wrong. The Government should be investing further funds into tourism, particularly at a time when the market is volitile, to increase Australia's competitiveness as a tourism destination.

''What we've seen in this Budget is that tourism simply isn't a priority for the Rudd Labor Government, despite it being a key economic driver of the Australian economy.

''We got a hint of that this year, when the new Tourism Minister would not attend G'Day USA - Australia's largest foreign country promotion to celebrate the best of Aussie culture, fashion, food and business.''