Tony Abbott has turned his back on a golden opportunity to enhance trade links between Australia and Italy and to promote tourism by refusing to fund an Australian presence at the 2015 World Expo in Milan.
While the Victorian Government is spending $1.25 million to participate in the Expo, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop claims she cannot justify funding involvement by the Australian Government because of the expense involved.
This is absurd. Participation in Expo Milan would be an investment in the future and would more than pay for itself in terms of trade opportunities and tourism.
The Government’s obsession with spending cuts at all costs and its mealy-mouthed rejection of promoting Australian tourism abroad is now costing Australian businesses genuine opportunities.
The theme of the Expo Milan is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. Given Australia’s status as a food exporter, our participation makes good sense.
When I visited Italy last year I met then Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who specifically raised the issue of Australia’s participation in the expo.
About 900,000 Australians have Italian ancestry and the expo also provides a chance to boost people-to-people links between the two nations and promote Australia as a destination for Italian tourists.
The Abbott Government’s short-sighted approach is inconsistent with its claim after its election that Australia was “open for business’’.
A government truly interested in economic development would ensure Australia had a stand at the Expo, as was the intention of the previous Labor Government.