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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1468

Mr JOHN BROWN (Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism)(4.21) —I should like briefly to comment on the contributions made to the debate by the Opposition on the estimates for the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism. I pay some tribute to the shadow Minister, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), for his rather pleasant remarks about the Government's effort in regard to sport, and I thank him for them. He has a very constructive approach to sport and we welcome it. I think it is fair to say that he is speaking from a position of some disadvantage because I think it is fair to reflect on the record of his Government in relation to sport when in power from 1975 to 1982. I think it is also fair to suggest to him that the record of the previous Government in this regard from 1975, from the time of the dismantling of the late Frank Stewart's Department of Tourism and Recreation, through to 1980 was absolutely appalling. In fact, the Budget for sport in 1979 was about $3m, which was absolutely disgraceful. I must say, in tribute to the Minister then responsible for sport, upon his removal from the position of Attorney-General, Mr Bob Ellicott, that sport received a very improved allocation from the then government. It is to Bob Ellicott's eternal credit that he was able to get the Australian Institute of Sport off the deck. That was some sort of recompense to sporting organisation in Australia for the Government's attempted boycott-which, fortunately, did not occur-of the Olympic Games held in Moscow in 1980.

Perhaps in referring to the AIS I should say something about the remarks of the honourable member for Mallee. He mentioned that the AIS was a little disappointed that it did not get the Budget it requested. That is a reasonable criticism. It should be noted that the increase in the budget of the AIS from $4 ,500,000 to $5,300,000 represents a very generous 18 per cent increase in the funds available to the Australian Institute of Sport this year. The honourable member also alluded to the fact that it might inhibit the training that our Olympic Games team is able to get under the national training scheme prior to its departure for Los Angeles. It is a pity I do not have with me the telegram I received from Mr Syd Grange, the secretary of the Australian Olympic Federation, some time after that outburst by various people about the AIS. This telegram waxed very eloquent about just how generously the Olympic Games team has been treated, not just in its allocation.

Mr Fisher —You only met our commitment.

Mr JOHN BROWN —The honourable member is correct. All we did was offer the previous Government's commitment. I acknowledge that. But, in the funds allocated to the AIS, particularly in terms of the national training scheme, the Olympic Games Federation believes that this team will be better equipped and better trained than any previous Olympic Games team that has ever left our shores. That is largely because of the more generous allocation of funds to the AIS.

Leaving the AIS aside for a minute, I shall say something about how this Government views sport and its philosophy towards sport. I mention that Mr Bob Ellicott, when he was the Minister, did an enormous amount to improve the lot of the elite sportsmen in Australia. That is something we applaud and will continue to accept. However, it is true to say also that sport at the grass roots level was largely neglected by the previous administration. Basically the only funds available were $3m by way of the sports development grants. When one considers that the national health bill in Australia these days is approaching $12,000m, $ 3m represents one four-thousandth of the money we spend on correcting people's health and directing people towards a more healthy lifestyle. This Government does not believe that is anywhere near sufficient. When one considers that Australia's health has now deteriorated to the extent to which we now share with Finland the dubious odium of the world's championship title for cardiovascular disease, and the latest surveys of children indicate that the next generation of children will be even worse, it is high time a government did something to encourage people to participate in something in the sporting or recreation line that would get them away from the tellies and the tinnies and get them fit again .

To this extent the budget for sport this year has improved by 54 per cent, which the shadow Minister acknowledged. I think most people would agree that that was a very generous shift in the Federal Government's allocation for sport. I shall quote two or three of the initiatives we have undertaken. I think people will realise that we are trying to do something right across the spectrum. For instance, the budget for sport for the disabled has an increase from $200,000 to $400,000. The Surf Life Saving Association of Australia has a lift in funds from $400,000 to $600,000, a neat 50 per cent increase. As I mentioned, the basis for sports development grants has been doubled from $3m to $6m, a healthy 100 per cent increase. I do not think that is yet enough. I hope that in the next Budget we do even more because it is imperative that we start to get Australians active again. That image that we perpetuate of ourselves as bronzed Anzacs and the fittest people in the world should somehow become a reality again because at this stage it is not. We are suffering badly from cardiovascular disease, from cholesterol levels from high blood pressure and from obesity. It is this Government's intention to get people active again.

Whilst paying credit to the shadow Minister for his pleasant remarks, I should remind the House that this Government is doing something much more generous than the previous Government did. In this regard I mention the Sports Commission which we set up to mastermind the administration of sport in Australia. It has been set up under the chairmanship of Mr Ted Harris, the managing director of Ampol Petroleum Ltd. His is a very famous name in sporting areas.

Mr O'Keefe —A keen tennis player.

Mr JOHN BROWN —He is not a bad tennis player either. The honourable member for Paterson is right. The assistant commissioners at this stage are Mr Herb Elliott , whose record would not need elucidation in this or any other forum in Australia, and Mr Mike Fitzpatrick, the captain of the victorious Carlton football team in 1980, 1981 and 1982. They have been joined by two other people, Mr Greg Hartung, a journalist, and Miss Libby Darlison, a sports sociologist. Those are permanent appointments to the Sports Commission. Their job is to replace the old Sports Advisory Council which, with the best of intention, was only a part time body that really did not have much effect other than being a stamp for government policies. We intend the Sports Commission to have a life of its own and to be able to investigate how badly or otherwise sport has been administered in Australia and make sure that government funds will be invested very wisely. I have great hope in their capacity to do their job.

I do not think anybody who takes a dispassionate look at how this Government has treated sport and recreation in its first Budget could be anything but laudatory of what we have done. I will accept the criticisms that the shadow Minister has offered in the best spirit in which they were offered. Some of the things that he mentioned are certainly worth investigation, and they will be looked at. Turning for one minute to the other area of responsibility which I carry-that is, tourism-I am absolutely staggered to find that the shadow Minister, the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton), blasting this Government about its efforts with respect to tourism. I have said before and I will say again that the previous Government put tourism in a time warp for seven years. It decreased the staff of the Australian Tourist Commission from 142 in 1975 to 72 in 1982. Its budget crept up from $7.5m in 1975 to $10m in 1982. The Department of Recreation and Tourism was demolished. Tourism, the biggest industry in Australia, the industry which employs most people and which, probably more importantly, has the capacity that no other industry has to grow and to employ people, was governed by 25 people working out of a cupboard in the then Department of Industry and Commerce under a tourism Minister whose name was known to nobody. We were not at all happy with that procedure, and we proceeded to revitalise the tourism industry in Australia.

I find it quite amusing that the shadow Minister can sit there and criticise us . Let us have a go at some of his criticims. He gives grudging credit to Paul Hogan. Paul Hogan offered his services to this Government because he could perceive that it knew something about tourism and was prepared to do something about it. I think I should put on record in this chamber just how generous a gesture that was from Paul Hogan. Paul Hogan would have no trouble commanding a fee of $1m to do an advertising campaign, but he does not want to do any others. Anyone who thinks the Paul Hogan is just an average dull ocker is badly misrepresenting the man. He is a very sensitive, very clever and very skilled communicator. Whatever advertising campaigns he has involved himself in-and the last one was for a brand of Australian beer in Britain-have been extraordinarily successful. More than 10 per cent of the British people are now drinking cold Australian beer. Anybody who knows anything about beer drinking habits in Britain will realise what an extraordinary success that has been. We were delighted when Paul Hogan came to me and offered his services. Of course, we gladly accepted them.

The campaign we will have him doing in Australia, to encourage Australians to holiday at home and to engender some pride in Australia about just what a glorious holiday destination it is and how, by holidaying at home, they might create a job for one of their fellow Australians, will also be extraordinarily successful. I am pleased to relate to the shadow Minister and to honourable members generally that this advertising campaign has been joined by all the States, which support it, and by the two domestic airlines which have acceded to our request to support this one advertising campaign to encourage Australians to see Australia first before going overseas for their holidays, as they are now doing in enormous numbers-about 1.3 million a year. That is the position as far as Paul Hogan is concerned.

The shadow Minister then got himself hooked out on a limb about costs. I find it rather amusing that he cites costs to us. The shadow Minister should look at the latest surveys on the Australian financial situation which show that inflation is falling and that unemployment has bottomed. Every economics writer and every political pundit in Australia now believe that the country is on the way back to prosperity. All the signs are there to indicate that there is confidence in Australia and that this Government has been able to get the disparate threads of our economy together. We have industry, governments and unions all joining together-the product of the National Economic Summit Conference held in this chamber-and now the country is united for the first time since the early 1970s. We are on the way back to prosperity. When I hear Opposition members talking about costs in the tourist industry I am simply astounded. If you took a dispassionate look at what we have done in this Budget you could hardly come in here and mouth such inanities. I mentioned at Question Time that we have even taken two taxes off, and you question the veracity of the second one. Let me explain to you in simple monosyllabic terms-

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mrs Darling) —Order! Would the Minister please address his remarks through the Chair and not to the shadow Minister?

Mr JOHN BROWN —How could I refuse such an offer? The tax to which the shadow Minister referred, the provision to the Queensland Government of a section 96 grant of $1m, is in fact a very simple one. All we have done is given the Queensland Government a section 96 grant of $1m which it will administer. We made an election promise to all the Barrier Reef islands including the Whitsunday islands and to all the tourist islands off the coast of Queensland, that we would subsidise the cost of electricity which they generate from diesel fuel because the previous Government, in its stupidity, had foisted upon the tourist industry a cost of 6 1/2c per litre on diesel fuel, from which the island resorts traditionally had an exemption. The effect on the islands was disastrous. They are not on the mainland grid. They have to generate their electricity from diesel. We have given them $1m which, on every estimate, will more than cover the cost of the diesel employed in generating electricity on those 18, I think the number is, recognised tourist islands off the coast of Queensland. I will not swear to the number, but it is in the 20 area. I think 18 islands will share this $1m.

Mr Ian Cameron —What about the isolated resorts?

Mr JOHN BROWN —I am pleased that the honourable member for Maranoa talks about other isolated tourist resorts around Australia which are not getting it. We are having a look at what we can do for them, but the honourable member should get it clearly in his mind that their difficulty is a result of a decision made by honourable members opposite in government, a deliberate decision to impose a special tax on the tourist industry. They did not have enough brains to realise that there was the answer to Australia's unemployment problems. All they could do was look at an industry which has a capacity to grow and think: 'Here is a milking cow. We will milk a bit more tax off it'. We have taken two taxes off it because we realise that if we can get the tourist industry to proliferate as it should the returns to government are very obvious: It will employ people.

Mr Ian Cameron —We know that in Queensland. We have the best tourist corporation .

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! Will the honourable member for Maranoa stop addressing the Minister. He does not have the floor.

Mr Ian Cameron —Queensland has the best tourist corporation in Australia.


Mr JOHN BROWN —The inane bleatings of the honourable member do not worry me, Madam Chair. Who listens to the honourable member for Maranoa? Not even the sheep! I turn to what we have done in the last Budget to assist the tourist industry. One of the problems that the tourist industry and other service industries in Australia have had traditionally is an inability to raise finance. If the shadow Minister takes a look at Budget pronouncements he will note that we have beefed up the capacity of the Australian Industry Development Corporation to the extent that it now has at its command over $1 billion to lend to Australian industry. We have given it a special charter to finance the service industries, particularly the tourist industry, to enable new resorts new hotels, et cetera, that will find genesis in Australia in the next few years to obtain finance. We have given the same charter to the Commonwealth Development Bank. Had the honourable member looked at that he would have seen exactly what we are doing.

He then went on to bleat about Tasmania. It must be terribly disappointing to members of the Opposition to realise that when the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) went to Tasmania recently and when the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment (Mr Cohen) and I went to Queenstown and Strahan we were not greeted with derisive jeers and boos as members of the Opposition might have expected. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) nearly had a heart attack when he found that the Prime Minister was cheered by Tasmanians. We were greeted with cheers of delight because they understand that the Government will honour its promises. We made firm commitments in Strahan and Queenstown, which are the gateways to the south west wilderness area, about what we proposed to do. It is no good the honourable member bleating here about it because the local residents are delighted with what we have decided to do.

The honourable member went on to talk about air fares. Of course, in the last few days there has been a 6 per cent increase in domestic air fares, which will not help the tourist industry. Let us put this in its true perspective. This year, under the administration of this Government, air fares have risen by 13 per cent. In the previous two years they rose by 45 per cent under the previous Government. We will be doing all we can to encourage the airlines to produce a proper tourist air fare, and I am sure that that will happen.

I will not dignify with a reply the remarks the honourable member made about penalty rates. My position on this subject is quite clear. I have put it publicly on many occasions and it has never differed from when I first spoke about it. He also alluded to a secret inquiry by the Australian Tourist Commission. I would have thought that he was sufficiently disgraced in the House some weeks ago when he asked a question about this matter never to raise it again. As he has, I will remind him what the situation is. There is nothing secret about the inquiry being conducted by the Australian Tourist Commission. It was set up by the Commission, not by me. I am very pleased with what it is doing. It is finding out what data is available about the effect of penalty rates on the tourist industry and the full spectrum of that activity. When that advice is ready it will go to all the tourist Ministers in Australia and we will make some decision as to what we can do if there is a case to be made about penalty rates.

Mr Shipton —You don't believe they are horrendous any more?

Mr JOHN BROWN —No. I suggest that in certain isolated areas of the tourist industry they do have an horrendous effect. I do not retreat one inch from that remark. But in the whole spectrum of the tourist industry they do not have such an effect. They have little effect on the hotel industry. In some island resorts and clubs they are devastating. But in many areas of the tourist industry they have very little effect. The honourable member should get his facts straight before he starts mouthing stupid remarks. This Government's record in sport and tourism is one which is unparalleled in the history of this Parliament. I look forward to succeeding Budgets providing even more for those two very important parts of Australian life.