Trade Minister Andrew Robb is such a poor advocate for the tourism sector that it has been locked out of Tony Abbott’s competitiveness agenda, risking billions of dollars in potential revenue and thousands of jobs.
Tourism is Australia’s largest services export, employs nearly one million people and contributes more than $105 billion to the Australian economy each year.
Yet in a glaring omission by the Government, tourism was nowhere to be seen on the priority list of Tony Abbott’s competitiveness agenda released earlier this month.
While food and agribusiness, mining, medical technology and manufacturing made the list, tourism has been left out in the cold.
This is further evidence that Trade Minister Andrew Robb is failing to champion this critical sector at the Cabinet table.
Since coming to office he has dismantled support for Australia’s tourism industry, cutting grants to regional tourism operators, slashing a long-running Australian Bureau of Statistics survey relied upon by investors and abandoning all marketing of domestic tourism.
Australia’s 280,000 tourism businesses have also been excluded for assistance under the Abbott Government’s business advice scheme. Under the previous Labor Government, tourism businesses were eligible for advice under the Enterprise Connect scheme.
Tourism is central to the Australian economy. Many communities in regional areas rely on tourists to drive their local economies.
Any government interested in jobs and economic prosperity, particularly in regional Australia, should support tourism wherever possible.
Tony Abbott has shown little interest, failing to appoint a Minister for Tourism and tacking the sector on to Mr Robb’s trade portfolio as an afterthought.
Mr Robb should explain his government’s disinterest to industry leaders meeting today in Canberra for the Tourism and Transport Forum’s 2014 Leadership Summit.