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Thursday, 3 May 1973
Page: 1666

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - The importance of the tourist industry is receiving more recognition as time goes by. I hope there is no argument as to the significance the Gold Coast plays within that industry and the importance of the beaches of the Gold Coast to that region. In 1967 these beaches suffered substantial erosion due to cyclonic damage, lt attracted much undesirable publicity in the southern Press and the result was that the occupancy rate of places of accommodation dropped from 80 per cent to 45 per cent, and in that year earnings in the tourist industry decreased by $15m. I believe every honourable member would be concerned if in his electorate an industry had a decrease in earnings of $15m in a year.

The state of the beaches on the Gold Coast led to a report being commissioned as to how we could best control beach erosion. It was known as the Delph report. The recommendations of the report, when costed, meant an expenditure of $14m over 5 years. All the States of Australia were prepared to accept that the situation was urgent because the Australian Loan Council agreed to an additional allocation of S5m to the Gold Coast City Council to start the necessary work. But if it is to remain a loan and if S14m is to be the accepted figure it would mean that the ratepayers on the Gold Coast would face an increase in rates of 40 per cent or almost half the present rates. This obviously was unacceptable and led to discussions between the State and Federal governments because of the significance of the Gold Coast beaches to the tourist industry. We were attracted to the national water resources program initiated in 1963 which was designed for flood mitigation purposes. There was an arrangement whereby the expenditure would be borne in the proportion of 40 per cent by the Federal Government, 40 per cent by the State Government and 20 per cent by the local authority. The 2 important criteria were those of protection for property and lives in the area and productivity. The flood plains of large sections of New South Wales were the scene of a disastrous experience in 1954 involving 22 deaths, a number of people being made homeless and $30m worth of damage covering a number of electorates. Certainly there was a requirement for protection. Productivity in that area at that time was $20m, basically from the sugar and the dairying industries.

Mr Martin - I raise a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, you could possibly guide me on this. The honourable member is raising these matters here, but his own party was in power for 23 years and did nothing about them.


Order! No point of order arises.

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - 1 will comment on that before I sit down. In the New South Wales flood plains region productivity amounted to $20m and expenditure to restore the area amounted to $22ni. On the Gold Coast no lives have been lost as a result of cyclonic damage, but do we have to wait until some lives are lost before action is taken? There has been a substantial loss of property, although nothing like a loss of $30m. People who have visited the Gold Coast and who have seen the tremendous multi-storey development there accept that there is substantial danger and risk to property in that district during a cyclone. The tourist income in Queensland is worth SI 50m a year. Of that amount $100n1 comes from interstate and overseas. Half of the income derived from tourists in Queensland is developed within the Gold Coast region. That means, in effect, a productivity of about S50m in that region. Yet a request by the Queensland Government for assistance was refused by this Government. Assistance was asked of the previous Government very late in 1972 but no decision was reached. I have made it very clear that I regret that ┬╗he previous Government did not reach a conclusion in regard to assistance for this area. This matter was raised again by the Queensland Premier with the new Government, but his request has been refused. The reasons given were that there is so much coastline around Australia that the Gold Coast is only a small part of it. That is true, but when one compares the economy of the Gold Coast with the economy of a vast area of the coastline around Australia one finds that the Gold Coast is a significant area of Australia.

Another reason for the refusal was that the local authorities were to be blamed because they had allowed development too close to the beaches and the Federal Government could not be held to be responsible for that. Yet part of the reason for acceptance of a claim made years ago was that man-made development in that area had been subject to natural disasters. Indeed a study of old maps of the Gold Coast will show not that the buildings were put too close to the beaches but that a steady rate of erosion over the years has increased the rate of erosion, particularly in a cyclone, to a much higher degree. I hope that the Labor Government is now in a position to reconsider this matter. Certainly reconsideration of it is needed. 1 know that the Gold Coast City Council and the State Government are having discussions on this matter. They are having a second look at the report to which I referred to ascertain whether it is possible in some way to reduce the expenditure which will be needed. But the matter does require and deserve reconsideration.

There is an inability by people to recognise the importance of the tourist industry. This importance has not been recognised by previous governments over many years. In fairness to the McMahon Government, in the policy speech delivered by that former Prime Minister he indicated that if his Government were re-elected he would move to allow as a taxable deduction depreciation on income producing building and he would ensure that access to long term developmental funds was made available to the tourist industry. I notice that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) is now in the House. I know that submissions are coming before him and I look forward to a consideration of them by him. I believe he will accept that what I have put is essential to the development of the tourist industry. Having said that, J reiterate that I believe that this Government should reconsider this matter.

One decision by this Government which I applaud is the one announced yesterday or the day before in regard to the new off-peak airline schedules and fares. I believe that this is desirable and helpful to the development of the tourist industry. As we move into the future I hope that there will be a greater acceptance and understanding by ali honourable members of the significance of the tourist industry to- the national economy.

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