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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1466

Mr SHIPTON(4.12) —In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism I wish firstly to congratulate Paul Hogan on agreeing to participate in the Australian domestic tourism program. I have already assured him, and I do so publicly in the House today, of the Opposition' s support for his participation in the Australian Tourist Commission's program to encourage Australians to see Australia first and to travel in Australia.

Mr Barry Jones —You had better congratulate the Minister too.

Mr SHIPTON —We should just wait before doing that because I believe that poor old Hoges has a hard job ahead of him. The Government, by its Budget and by its actions, is making it very difficult for him. If the Minister for Science and Technology listens he will see why. The Budget admits and assumes an inflation rate of at least double that of our trading partners. Because of the continuing high inflation in Australia overseas travel will continue to be attractive to Australians. The Budget, the mini-Budget and the national wage case put up costs for every Australian. The middle income earner is continually squeezed and will have less discretionary income to spend on holidays. The increased costs due to the Budget, the mini-Budget and the national wage case put up costs for every tourist operator in Australia. The Budget is a public sector budget. It expands government in Australia and squeezes private enterprise and the private sector. It puts pressure on every private enterprise tourist operator in Australia-the airlines, bus operators, hotels, motels and restaurants. It is no wonder that the Government is employing Paul Hogan to advertise the industry because the Budget contradicts and counteracts everything that poor old Hoges is trying to do. The Budget puts up costs to everyone in the tourist industry and to its customers, the potential travellers-the Australian consumer, the Australian public. The domestic tourism advertising program is doubtless designed in part to cover up the Government's failure to provide any real hope or any real incentive to the industry. The Budget contains no real incentives to the industry. It provides no investment allowances, no depreciation allowances or provisions. There are, of course, broken promises.

Let us look at Tasmania in relation to the Budget. The Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown), in a visit to Tasmania in August before the Budget was presented, promised Tasmanians, as compensation for the dam, $10m to be spent on tourist development. He also promised jobs to Tasmanians. I say to the Minister: How much of that $10m was provided in the Budget? Less than $2m was given to Tasmania, and $10m was promised. It is no wonder that Tasmanians continue to be disaffected and disillusioned with this Government. The increases in fuel costs in the mini-Budget in May and in this Budget strike at the tourist industry. Increases are now guaranteed every six months by automatic indexation. Airline costs are increased and these are reflected, obviously, in higher air fares. Bus and coach operators are cruelly hit by the fuel increases. Buses that do eight miles to the gallon are heavy consumers of diesel fuel. Bus operators also suffer from the Government's broken promise to abolish sales tax on retread tyres.

Let us look at Queensland. The Treasurer (Mr Keating) described in the Budget a special grant to Queensland of $1m to subsidise the costs of diesel fuel to Barrier Reef island resorts. Yet the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, in a recent speech at Tamworth-he reassured the House of this today-said that that $1m was to assist the off-shore islands with the generation of electricity. So the grant has been confined to the generation of electricity on off-shore islands. The situation is confusing and it needs clarifying.

Mr John Brown —Do you know of any on-shore islands?

Mr SHIPTON —I am asking the Minister about the off-shore islands. He said that the grant was to Queensland. Does it include the Whitsunday islands, which are not Great Barrier Reef islands? Does it include Kangaroo Island in South Australia? Is it limited to the Queensland Barrier Reef islands, to the Queensland off-shore islands or to off-shore islands generally? If it does not apply to all Queensland off-shore islands and particularly to Barrier Reef islands, obviously they will all get less than they thought they would get when the Budget was delivered. There will be less for everyone. If the grant applies to all Queensland off-shore islands, will the Government increase the amount available?

The situation is confusing and it needs clarifying. The special subsidy in Queensland of $1m, the limits of which we will hear about shortly, I hope, discriminates against all on-shore operators, who suffer similar disadvantages of distance in Australia to those who suffered by off-shore operators. I refer to on-shore operators at Queensland ports, in the Northern Territory and other parts of Australia. Surely operators in Alice Springs and Ayers Rock are just as entitled to special assistance and suffer the same disadvantages as off-shore operators in Queensland. What about bus and coach operators who operate long distances? They need fuel depots, often in remote areas all over Australia. They have an equal claim for a subsidy but are excluded by this Government and have seen their fuel and other costs escalate enormously. One could be excused for believing that there was to be an election shortly in Queensland and that this Government had tried by its $1m subsidy to win votes. The subsidy has backfired, because it is confusing. No one knows where it applies or who will get it and at the end of the day there will be very little for all operators in Queensland.

I turn to the subject of penalty rates. I welcome the Australian Tourist Commission inquiry into penalty rates because it is clear that penalty rates are putting up costs and limiting the growth potential of the tourist industry. The Minister was forced publicly to admit the existence of this inquiry, which he knew about, but he did so only after I revealed its existence. He was quiet and reluctant about it because of union pressure. The extra costs to tourist operators of weekend work and penalty rates impose enormous cost burdens on the Australian tourist industry. If the Government is serious about attracting overseas visitors to Australia it must come to grips with penalty rates.

Every time the Minister speaks on the subject of penalty rates he changes his position. He backs off a little further from his earlier and now famous statement that penalty rates have a horrendous effect on the tourist industry. I welcome the Commission's inquiry. I am concerned that it will not be sufficiently broadly based. I understand that the Commission will not be calling or advertising for submissions from the public. I ask the Minister: Why is this so? I believe that employers and unions alike should be able to make submissions to the inquiry. It is perfectly clear that penalty rates are putting up costs and inhibiting job opportunities in the industry. I hope that the Minister is not using this inquiry as an excuse for doing nothing, for inaction. However, I feel that he has been muzzled by the union movement and really wishes that nothing should be done to change the status quo, that penalty rates would just stay as they are and that the issue would go away.

I now refer specifically to Perth, the host city for the next America's Cup defence. The Government should provide extra assistance to Perth so that it can cash in on the America's Cup challenge. The tourist industry in Perth will need government assistance to develop new facilities. The Government must consider incentives such as investment and depreciation allowances with specific initiatives for Perth and other parts of Western Australia. In this way Perth could become the spearhead of an attractive tourist package before and during the America's Cup challenge as part of a visit which included other parts of Australia. The campaign to attract overseas visitors, particularly from the United States, needs to be stepped up. On the domestic level, the Government must also look at providing incentives to tourist boatbuilders. An enormous number of spectator craft will be needed for the America's Cup series in Western Australia, and there needs to be a close look at who will build them, who will operate them and how best they can be used before and after the 12 metre series. The Government needs to provide incentives for the private sector to build and operate these boats.