Nov 8, 2016

Private Members’ Business – Northern Australian Tourism Industry and Small Businesses

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:52): I certainly will agree with the member for Capricornia that her electorate in Central Queensland, and indeed, all of northern Australia, has a lot to offer the tourism sector. That is why it is so disappointing that this government is ignoring the tourism sector.

Just two weeks ago, during the break, I was at the Australian Regional Tourism Network national conference in Roma in western Queensland. There you would expect the tourism minister to be, perhaps, but he did not bother to go; perhaps the parliamentary secretary to the tourism minister—did not bother to go. Indeed, no-one bothered to go from the coalition to that conference in the electorate of Maranoa. Can I say that the comment from regional tourism operators at that conference was to express dismay at the lack of support that they are receiving from this government.

The motion refers to support for northern Australia. Of course, the northern Australia infrastructure fund, which was announced some 18 months ago in the 2015 budget, has not had a single dollar allocated from it—some 18 months; not a single project. Labor announced during the election campaign our plan to allocate $1 billion specifically from that fund for a northern Australia tourism infrastructure fund—supported by people like the now member for Solomon—for projects targeting the expanding Asian tourism market; projects promoting Australia’s natural environment, such as the Great Barrier Reef; ecotourism; Indigenous tourism ventures; event-based facilities, including stadium and convention centres; and transport and access upgrades, including for ports and airports. Since the election, I have had three round tables in northern Australia on tourism—in Darwin, in Alice Springs and in Cairns. At each of those meetings—

A government member interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: I will be in Western Australia on Sunday and Monday. The fact is that this government has ignored northern Australia. They also have some hide coming in here at a time when, over in the other place, in the Senate they are considering an increase in the backpacker tax and an increase in the passenger movement charge on everyone who comes to and from Australia. It is extraordinary. Here they are, now, arguing with a new tax that will have an increased revenue from their proposition in 2015 that somehow it is going down. It is that sort of Orwellian nonsense that the tourism sector is slamming them over—just like the passenger movement charge, with no consultation with the tourism sector whatsoever.

The fact is that since they announced their backpacker tax changes numbers are down. That is why they have had to revise their position and do a semi-backflip. They may well have to do a fair bit more, because it has been rejected by the agriculture and tourism sectors as simply not doing enough. Tourism is a super-growth sector. It already employs one million Australians. It contributes $107 billion to the Australian economy, and every dollar spent in tourism generates another 92c in other parts of the economy.

We can talk about our tourism policy because during the election campaign we released one, a comprehensive plan for tourism. Those opposite did not release a tourism policy during the 2016 election. Having shown contempt for the sector, in their first term, by refusing to have a tourism minister, by not being able to say what department tourism would be located in, they rubbed it in by having no policy announced. Then, the tourism minister, in his first contribution, described the passenger movement charge as being a golden goose strangling the industry—just before they announced they would increase it. (Time expired)