Tony Abbott has demonstrated his chronic lack of interest in tourism by failing to assign responsibility for the critical portfolio within the bureaucracy.
After failing to appoint a tourism minister and confusion as to who would be responsible, the Prime Minister eventually declared he would place it under the portfolio of Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb.
But a check of the departmental website reveals no-one in the senior executive levels of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has responsibility for the sector, which employs 531,000 Australians.
It appears that despite claiming that his government wants to promote tourism, Mr Abbott has sent the industry on holidays while he gets his administrative act together.
This farce follows Mr Abbott forgetting to appoint a tourism minister in his first ministry and then appointing two ministers in a split of domestic and international tourism – a decision he later reversed.
Now we have a minister for tourism who, it appears, has forgotten to appoint anyone to work on the sector.
This is a comedy of errors. The only people not laughing are those whose livelihoods depend on a vibrant and well-administrated tourism sector.
In further insult to the industry, the government has also axed a tourism grants program designed to help create jobs and economic activity in regional Australia.
Applicants for funding under Round 2 of the Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund (TIRF) who inquire about the future of the program have been told by email it has been scrapped.
But in line with the Abbott Government’s administrative malaise, this advice is being distributed by the Department of Industry, not DFAT.
The Coalition’s 2013 Tourism Policy which states (at page 4):
As Australia’s largest services export, tourism deserves prominence in government.
Mr Abbott’s actions are a mile away from his pre-election rhetoric.
NOTE: The DFAT organisational chart makes no mention of tourism. It is available at: http://www.dfat.gov.au/dept/dfat-org-chart-executive.pdf