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Thursday, 20 September 1973
Page: 1399

Mr O'KEEFE (Paterson) - I rise tonight to mention briefly the matter of tourism. I am pleased to note that the Minister for Tourism (Mr Stewart) is in the chamber. Tourism in Australia is somewhat of a Cinderella but I feel that the Government is on the right track in increasing the Budget expenditure on this item. This year it is proposed that the expenditure shall increase from $2.3m to $5.8m. This certainly has given the Minister a little more muscle for him to develop the portfolio which has been allocated to him. Even so, considerably more money should be made available to this portfolio if we are to see any real development of the tourist industry in Australia. I note with interest that recently a meeting of the various tourist authorities in Australia was called at which arrangements were made for SI. 75m of Federal grants to be allocated to the various States. In my own State of New South Wales is a most active tourist bureau. The various country associations are doing an excellent job in promoting tourism in particular areas.

Mr Hunt - We could use additional expenditure in the Warrumbungle Ranges.

Mr O'KEEFE - The honourable member for Gwydir is aware that I was foundation President of the North-West Tourist Association in the area he mentioned. One aspect which is very worrying is that last year in Australia the tourist trade increased by only one per cent. We must increase our tourist trade by a greater percentage because if we look at figures related to world tourist trade Australia is well down the list. Australian tourists overseas are big spenders so we must increase the number of incoming tourists to Australia otherwise Australia will go down the drain in this field. Last year from tourism we received a dismal one per cent increase in revenue - from $13 8m the previous year to $148m.

Australia has much to offer to tourists and we should be doing more to attract overseas tourists here. Although this may be an invisible industry it is important and one that we should be developing with all the facilities that we can provide. In my own area, as I mentioned in this House two or three weeks ago, we have some magnificent tourist attractions. Let me start by mentioning the Newcastle area with its great beaches, Lake Macquarie, and the city of Maitland which is styled the hub of the Hunter. The Maitland district has many spots of great tourist interest. At the present time there are many organised tours into this area from Sydney. They make trips to Gresford, Lowstock Dam, the vineyards at Pokolbin, Dalwood Estates and Wyndham right up the Hunter to Muswellbrook, Denman and Sandy Hollow. At Scone there are the famous cattle studs and horse studs and also the Glenbawn Dam and Burning Mountain at Wingen. These are great attractions and should be publicised.

Recently the Australian Tourist Commission sent an officer to Merriwa in this area to have a look at a dude ranch there and also to have a look at the Glenbawn Dam. Immediately it was publicised in the Press that an officer from the Australian Tourist Commission would visit the area, letters came in from all directions asking when he would be coming. He visited the area and inspected these 2 projects I mentioned. Then I received a letter from a Mr L. J. St Hill, the executive officer of the Department of Decentralisation and Development at Toronto. His letter read as follows:

Dear Sir,

I am disappointed to learn from your letter of August 30 that the visit of an officer of the Australian Tourist Commission to the Hunter Valley has already taken place.

As mentioned in my previous letter (August 17) we have an active tourist sub-committee who would like an opportunity for discourse with officers of the Australian Tourist Commission in the not-too-distant future.

The area of interest of my Council extends from Swansea to Forster and west to Merriwa and Murrurundi Shires. The principal tourist organisations within that area are the Hunter Valley Tourist Association and the Manning-Forster Tourist Authority both of which have members on our Council. I have spoken this morning to Mr Ray Brooks, the Tourist Promotion Officer for the Hunter Valley Tourist Authority, who also would wish to be involved in any future visit by officers of the Commission.

Items of particular interest' as mentioned in your letter are too numerous to particularise, though our sub-committee is developing proposals for a 'Tourist Circuit Route' which will combine many of them and which would certainly be of interest to overseas visitors. However I would see any meeting as concentrating on discussion of aims, organisation, coordination of effort and development/deployment of resources rather than on particular tourist attractions.

May I look forward to your comments?

I am pleased to see that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation is in the House tonight because no doubt he is interested in this information. I ask that he make available, if possible, an officer either from his Department or from the Australian Tourist Commission to visit Newcastle and the Hunter Valley to look at the wonderful tourist attractions there which would interest tourists and which would decentralise this part of the world with great benefit to everyone.

I hope that the Minister will be able to arrange a visit from an officer. Whether he is from the Department or from the Australian Tourist Commission would not matter, so long as he carried out a complete survey. The Minister can readily see from this letter I have received that people were disappointed that the officer inspected only those 2 points. I know that the Minister has a rather difficult portfolio to administer and that finance for it is limited, but in Australia we have much of great interest to show tourists. I trust that this request will be acceded to and that we will have a visit from an officer from the Department or from the Tourist Commission.

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