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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1448

Mr CROSS —Is the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism aware of the crucial importance of the tourist industry to Queensland, known in the trade as the Sunshine State? What initiatives is the Government taking to stimulate this important industry?

Mr JOHN BROWN —Of course I am aware, as are most thinking people in Australia, of the importance of the tourism industry to Queensland. Of course, having said ' thinking people', I dismiss honourable members opposite because in their seven years in government they failed to realise that they had within their grasp an opportunity to do something not only to bolster the economy of Queensland but also to help the economy of Australia. They failed to take any advantage of the great potential that was there. This Government does not share that despair, fortunately. With reference to the honourable member's question, I can list a few specifics that we have done to advantage tourism in Queensland. Tourism has traditionally been Queensland's most important industry and with the downturn in commodity prices and the fall in the capacity of mining in Queensland it is even more important. A few of the things that we have done are very important.

Firstly, we took away a tax that was imposed by the previous Government back in 1981-a 20 per cent sales tax on the building of tourist boats, which had the disastrous effect of closing down a very viable industry. Not one decent tourist boat has been built in Australia since that time. In fact, the skilled people who were employed in that industry have shipped out to Taiwan and we have been importing boats from Taiwan to assist the tourist industry in Queensland. This Government, in a very interesting move, dismissed that tax retrospective to the day when it was instituted-19 August 1981. The effect of that has been marked in Queensland, where the boat industry has now reconstructed itself. Every time I visit Queensland I meet people with smiles on their faces who are getting rebate cheques from this Government because they happened to have had a boat on the slips at the time when the tax was implemented. Now they are getting rebates and are planning to build new boats, as is the Ansett organisation at Hayman Island. It has just announced its intention to build a $4m boat. That was one thing.

Secondly, we have made $1m available to the Queensland Government in the form of a section 96 grant to alleviate the cost of the generation of electricity on off-shore islands. The geniuses who were on the Treasury benches ahead of us imposed a 6.5c a litre tax on the diesel supply for the tourist industry, which meant that all those islands that generate their electricity from diesel were faced with an enormous impost which added to their problems in remaining viable. We have given them $1m to help. Apart from all that, we have increased the funds for the Australian Tourist Commission by a massive 75 per cent in one swoop, which points out in stark reality what we believe about the tourist industry, its potential to employ people and its potential to add to the economy of Australia. Queensland should now be in a much more prosperous position than it would have been under the people opposite, because it depends so radically upon tourism for its survival.

This Government has been entirely responsible in its administration of tourism. I think that at the end of our first term of office, when honourable members opposite see the numbers of people who are coming to Australia and the numbers of Australians who are taking holidays at home because of the initiatives we have undertaken, they will realise just what a great potential they missed. They had a diamond mine in Queensland and they could not get the shovel to uncover the gems. Now we have done that, greatly to the advantage of Queensland. I thank the honourable member for his question. I hope honourable members opposite have learned something from my answer.