Jun 18, 2018

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 – Consideration in Detail

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:06): I rise to contribute to the consideration in detail debate for the budget, particularly with regard to tourism, because there is no doubt that this budget is a missed opportunity when it comes to tourism with the coalition failing to restore the $35 million funding cut from Tourism Australia last year.

Investing in Tourism Australia is a no-brainer. The fact is that every dollar spent on tourism advertising and marketing generates a return on investment of some $16. What’s more, we know that tourism has been identified as one of five supergrowth sectors by Deloitte. It employs more than one million Australians and, given where we’re located—in the fastest growing region of the world—there is enormous opportunity for us to grow the economy and grow jobs, particularly in our regions, if the government provides appropriate support.

Upon coming to office, the coalition cut two of federal Labor’s successful programs: the T-QUAL Grants Program and the Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund. Both of those programs supported industry development by providing grants for projects that would not only attract both interstate and international visitors but also encourage them to lengthen their stays. Communities across the nation benefited immensely from these programs. While the tourism sector is performing well in Australia, the fact is a number of challenges remain around regional dispersal and extending the average stay.

The continued success of tourism relies on a government that supports it, and the coalition should prove it does by restoring funding to Tourism Australia. It’s not just Labor saying this; the TTF, the peak organisation, said, ‘It’s dismissed as a joke by Minister Ciobo’—and I note that his attitude towards the sector is now on the record. They describe the 2018 budget as bittersweet saying:

… the Government has missed a golden opportunity to reap the benefits from substantially increasing its funding for Tourism Australia.

This follows the disastrous 2017 budget, which saw not just the cuts to Tourism Australia but the increase in visa application charges. Of course who can forget the minister’s performance in question time speaking about any increase in the Passenger Movement Charge as ‘killing the goose that lays the golden egg’?

He made a goose of himself, because immediately after that the government introduced a budget that in fact increased the passenger movement charge, in spite of the fact that there was very clearly an election commitment from both sides of politics that that would not happen.

Of course, we know that tourism does matter. When the government were elected in 2013, they forgot to appoint a tourism minister; so they have improved somewhat—they at least have someone as tourism minister now. We know that tourism generates more than $97 billion in economic activity. It’s got to be regarded that investment in tourism is just that—it’s an investment that produces a return; it’s not simply a cost. We know that there are enormous opportunities. At the last election, we were the only political party that produced a tourism policy. When we’re in government, we certainly won’t forget to appoint a tourism minister; indeed, we will make sure that tourism is very much linked in with infrastructure and transport. We know that all the great cities of the world that rely on tourism—New York, Paris, London—have very effective public transport networks, and we know that that linkage with provision of infrastructure is so important. We know also that tourism infrastructure matters in our regions. There is incredible opportunity for us to grow tourism in the regions around Australia, not just at the Reef and the Rock. More importantly, there is an opportunity to grow jobs in regional centres. So we regard tourism as a priority and we regard this budget as a lost opportunity. Indeed, the feedback from the sector is that it is a lost opportunity. Tourism is critical to Australia’s future, and it’s about time the government gave it due support. (Time expired)