Nov 29, 2016

Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:33): I move:

That all the words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

   ‘the House:

   (1)   declines to give the bill a second reading as the existence of this Bill is policy-on-the-run in that:

      (a) an increase in the Passenger Movement Charge bears no relation to the issue of the appropriate level of taxation for backpackers who work in Australia;

      (b) an increase in the Passenger Movement Charge was not part of the original package in the May 2015 Budget;

      (c) over sixteen months later, in September 2016, the Government announced further changes to the package and randomly added a $5 increase to the Passenger Movement Charge to fund other unrelated policy decisions;

      (d) the increase in the Passenger Movement Charge was done without any consultation with the sectors affected – including airlines, cruise ship companies, tourism operators, and tourism peak organisations.

   (e) the Treasurer indicated in a media conference on November 8 that he would simply seek to double the $5 increase to $10 if other unrelated elements of the package failed; and

      (f) the increase in the Passenger Movement Charge has real consequences for tourism and will have jobs impacts in the tourism industry, which employs a million Australians, is Australia’s largest services export and has been nominated as one of Australia’s five super growth sectors; and

   (2)   notes further that the handling of the Passenger Movement in the Parliament has been chaotic in that:

      (a) no modelling of the economic and jobs impact of this measure accompanies the Bill before the Parliament;

      (b) this increase breaks an election commitment from the Government not to increase the Charge;

      (c) this Bill directly contradicts the statement of the Minister for Tourism, who told the Parliament on August 31 that previous increases in the Passenger Movement Charge would choke “the golden goose that is Australia’s tourism industry”;

      (d) the increase failed in the Senate last week after the Government sought to bring it on for a vote; and

      (e) the five-year freeze would extend beyond the life of this Parliament, and is a meaningless statement designed to secure support for this flawed legislation’.

Speaking to the amendment briefly, it is very clear that this is a clear breach of a commitment by the government. We know now that there is absolutely no possibility of this parliament binding future parliaments for five years and that that is simply a con in order to secure the support of the Senate crossbench.

Importantly, the tourism sector have been treated with contempt. They were treated with contempt when the government failed to nominate a tourism minister after the 2013 election. They were treated with contempt when the people in Senate estimates could not say where the tourism sector would be represented and by which department. They were treated with contempt by the failure of the government to produce a tourism policy at the last election. They were treated with contempt when the government then failed to consult with them before this increase of $5 in the passenger movement charge. They were treated with contempt when the Treasurer threatened to double the increase over unrelated measures, in a fit of pique for which this Treasurer is becoming known.

The fact is that tourism is a vital sector for Australia. The truth is that it cannot continue to be treated by this government like a cash cow. The passenger movement charge was originally introduced to pay for customs services and, essentially, a user-pays model for services provided by the Australian government. That has long since gone. The passenger movement charge delivers more than $1 billion, most of which goes straight into consolidated revenue, as will this increase go straight into consolidated revenue. At a time when the tourism sector employs many people, particularly in regional Australia, it has been hit with a double whammy of the backpacker tax and this increase. That is why I am moving this amendment. I commend the amendment to the House. This increase should not go forward. Labor are being consistent with the policy approach that we had at the election and consistent with the approach taken by people such as the member for Solomon, who will second this amendment. He campaigned on this issue, as did the member for Lyons, the member for Paterson and the member for Brand, who will also have the opportunity to make contributions to this debate.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Goodenough ): Is the amendment seconded?