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Thursday, 23 August 1973
Page: 303

Mr STEWART (Lang) (Minister for Tourism and Recreation) - by leave - 'Establishing a new portfolio is always a challenging task. When tabling another report in May on The Role, Scope and Development of Recreation in Australia', I said that the magnitude of the task did not daunt me. However, the complexity of .the problems associated with both tourism and recreation has not been fully appreciated by everybody in the past. My purpose in having reports prepared on the major areas within my responsibility is to provide a sound basis for future planning. I am anxious that both the problems and potential of tourism be clearly understood and its needs be identified before attempting to find solutions.

This report, 'Development of Tourism in Australia', has been prepared by my Department with the benefit of advice from the Australian Tourist Commission, the Australian National Travel Association and other interested organisations. It provides a general description of tourism in Australia by looking at the following questions: What is the nature and degree of our appeal as a tourist destination? What is the place of tourism in Australia in relation to individual demands, community values and our national identity? What is its contribution to the national economy and to regional economies? What is its role as an employer? And finally, what is its relationship to the environment?

This report looks closely at the state of the tourist industry and outlines the difficulties it is experiencing. Some of its problems are due both to the nature of the industry and to shorter-term adverse circumstances. I cannot help but feel that the problems of the tourist industry are not understood and appreciated enough. There is a widespread but incorrect impression that the industry is relatively prosperous, making it tempting to dismiss claims for assistance rather too quickly or, even worse, to impose further burdens on an industry whose viability is at the best uncertain. I hope this report will correct these views. However, the main purpose of this report is to stimulate discussion. We have suggested a number of objectives which the Australian Government should accept towards the development of tourism. These objectives are unashamedly flavoured by our Government's basic philosophies. We believe the new attitude and direction they adopt will set a worthwhile pattern for Australian Government involvement in this field.

One of our deepest concerns is for the ordinary, average Australians. We want to encourage more of them to travel widely in Australia, to see and learn more about their own country, to enjoy and enrich their increasing hours of leisure. The various proposals put forward are designed to achieve these aims. However, they are not meant to be the complete answer. Formulation of our development policies will be a progressive, gradual process, hopefully involving contributions from interested parties at all levels of government and from the industry. What we have here is the first stage. At some time in the future we may be able to translate all the policies into proposals for specific projects in a national tourism plan. For the present, this report provides the background justification for proposals which have been considered in this year's Budget context. These proposals go a long way towards giving effect to the Prime Minister's policy speech undertakings to provide financial inducements to the tourist industry, to ensure that Australian cities and tourist centres acquire accommodation and amenities of international standard. I am pleased that the tourist industry has at last received some recognition of its needs through the following measures: The expansion and modification of the existing grants scheme to provide $ 1.75m for specific tourism development projects in 1973-74. Grants would be available for projects such as Australiana or pioneer settlements, preservation of historic sites and buildings, and fauna sanctuaries.

Mr Gorton - What was the size of the previous grant?

Mr STEWART - $250,000. The projects would not be confined to those with particular international appeal, and it would no longer be a requirement that States provide a matching grant. However, it is intended that applications would continue to be submitted to State governments for initial consideration. We have decided to make an allocation of 5570,000 towards the cost of promoting domestic tourism on an Australia-wide basis, to conduct regional surveys of important tourist areas and to provide low-cost accommodation for young travellers. We have approved in principle the insurance of loans for tourist accommodation through the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. Amending legislation will be required before this decision can be implemented. We are considering the possibility of equity participation by the Australian Government in major tourist development projects, in the spirit of Government and private sector co-operation. Subject to the amendment of the Commonwealth Banks Act, we want to expand the functions of the Commonwealth Development Bank so that financial assistance can be given to tourist development projects, particularly smaller undertakings in selected areas.

These measures are designed to boost tourism by providing more ready access to developmental funds. I recognise that there are other forms of assistance which would bc more helpful in easing the special operating difficulties of the industry. Some of these are also mentioned in our report. These and other proposals will be the subject of future submissions to Cabinet. Meanwhile, my aim is to work towards the tourist industry gaining a firm footing, providing a standard of service, attractions and facilities of which all Australians could be justifiably proud and from which they can derive pleasure and benefit. Tourism has an important contribution to make to the nation's economic and social well-being through the more enjoyable use of our leisure time. I want to sec this potential fulfilled. I have much pleasure in tabling the report 'Development of Tourism in Australia' and commending it to all honourable members.

I present the following paper:

Development of Tourism in Australia - Ministerial Statement, 23 August 1973.

Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

Suggest corrections