Address to the Tourism and Transport Forum Leaders Lunch, Sydney
Posted on Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Well Bruce, you only got that bit in about Tony Abbott being a great athlete because that forced me to admit that I’m not nearly as good a swimmer as you are and you beat me day in day out when it comes to the ocean swims at which you are so expert.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a real pleasure to be here amongst the luminaries of the tourism industry. It is important that I am here amongst you, because you deserve far more support and recognition from government than you get.
Now I want to say that the Coalition, the Liberal Party, are acutely conscious of the importance of this industry, because senior members of the Coalition are of this industry. Bob Baldwin, the rightly praised Shadow Minister for Tourism is a former tourism operator. Not only is he a former tourism operator, but he’s now a tourism advertiser. Some of you might have seen the Staycation web ad that Bob put together. He’s hardly Lara Bingle I’ve got to say but nevertheless he’s doing his bit for the tourism industry in a practical way.
Scott Morrison, the Shadow Minister for Immigration is a former head of Tourism Australia. Joe Hockey, the Shadow Treasurer is a former Tourism Minister. I’m trying to think of Alex Hawke’s connection with the tourism industry. I think he’s done a bit of tourism over the years and certainly there is one amongst you, Craig Laundy who I hope will soon be joining the Coalition in Canberra, who is one of the lions of the tourism industry, through his role with the hotel sector.
So we have a lively personal appreciation of just how important this sector is. We are very conscious of the fact that you employ some 500,000 Australians. We appreciate the fact that three per cent of our Gross Domestic Product comes courtesy of your hard work. We’re conscious of the fact that eight per cent of Australia’s exports are tourism. You are our largest services export and in all the talk about the booming resources sector, all the concern about the manufacturing industry under pressure, we cannot lose sight of the importance of tourism.
I’ve got to say that the Coalition is acutely conscious of the importance of business generally. We understand in the marrow of our bones that you cannot have a strong and healthy society without a strong economy to sustain it and you don’t have a strong economy without profitable businesses. So we understand that government doesn’t create jobs, government doesn’t produce wealth. Business creates jobs, business produces wealth.
We understand this. The Labor Party used to understand it in the days of Hawke and Keating, but unfortunately they seem to have forgotten that lesson, partly I suspect because of their alliance with the Greens. The Greens have only seen one industry that they like, that’s the renewable energy sector and certainly as a result, in part, of their alliance with the Greens, this is a Government which wants to close industries down rather than start them up and support them, whether you’re looking at the forestry industry in Tasmania, the live cattle industry in Northern Australia, the fishing sector now threatened by marine protected areas.
I regret to say ladies and gentlemen, we have a Government that does not understand business generally, but it is a Government which seems particularly oblivious to the plight of the tourism industry. We know that you are doing it tough. There’s the high dollar, there are high costs and the result of the difficulties that your industry faces is that we now have a tourism trade deficit of some $7 billion a year which we need to address.
Unfortunately, the bad news is that the Government is making it even worse for you. There’s workplace relations changes over the last few years that are making it harder for you to stay open on Sundays, after hours, on public holidays. There’s the increasing burden of red tape. The Government came to power promising to reduce the regulatory burden. They said that we would not promulgate a new regulation without taking one out. It was a one in, one out system they promised us. In fact what we’ve got from this Government is more than 18,000 new regulations and they’ve only withdrawn some 200. It’s an extraordinary accretion of paperwork that they’ve given us and then as we’ve already heard in the Budget, there was the 17 per cent increase in the passenger movement charge – a massive additional hit on this industry to pay for airport policing and then of course there is the carbon tax.
Now, the carbon tax epitomises everything that is wrong with this Government’s approach to our economy. Just think of what the carbon tax is. It hits power. Every single business in our economy uses power. Should they be re-elected it will hit transport. Every single business in this economy uses transport. It’s a great big new tax to create a great big new slush fund to be administered by a great big new bureaucracy to fund great big new handouts. This is redistribution masquerading as environmentalism. It is socialism pretending to be environmentalism and it epitomises the high tax, high spend, big government approach which is at the heart of the contemporary Labor Party.
I don’t mean to be political today ladies and gentlemen, but I have to tell the truth. I have to be honest with you and the honest truth is that the lessons that the Labor Party learnt painfully over the years under Hawke and Keating and other responsible leaders have been forgotten in the rush to embrace the Greens that we’ve seen from this Government.
The carbon tax is already having a significant detrimental impact on the tourism industry. It’s added up to $6 to every airline ticket. The cost of taking a family of four to Perth and back is $48 more thanks to the carbon tax. QANTAS will have $110 million carbon tax bill this year. That’s seven times their half yearly tax bill. Virgin will have a $45 million carbon tax bill. That’s twice their half yearly tax bill. Ferry operators to Tasmania are now $3 per passenger more - $6 per vehicle more. The tourism operator Quicksilver – one of the big recreational dive operators out of Cairns - $250,000 a year more because of the hit on diesel thanks to the carbon tax and then of course there’s just the general increases in costs under the carbon tax, which your industry estimates will be a hit of $730 million a year on this sector and over time will reduce employment in this sector by up to 6,000.
It’s not a very happy picture, it is not a very happy picture, but there is good news and the good news is that the alternative government is here to help and we aren’t even waiting until the election. We’ve already been able to help by knocking off the indexation of the passenger movement charge. Bob Baldwin has been highly praised already for his work in this area and I want to join the chorus of praise for you Bob. I don’t have a Shadow Minister who is more assiduous with his portfolio constituency than you are. I’ve got some very good shadow ministers, I’ve got to say ladies and gentlemen, it really is a top draw team, but there is no one who is more energetic, more diligent, more in tune with his sector than Bob Baldwin. So we did succeed, and I suppose it helps that, you know, Joe Hockey as a former tourism minister is such a soft touch when it comes to tourism but really, it is extraordinarily important that we are the friend of this industry in its hour of need.
We will get rid of this carbon tax. Please don’t let anyone tell you that this carbon tax is just a pin prick amidst all the other problems that business has. This is a toxic tax. It will increase every family’s cost of living. It will make every job in our economy less secure and it isn’t even going to reduce emissions. I invite any of you who are seriously interested in public policy to go to the Government’s own carbon tax documentation, page 18 of the modelling documents released back on the 10th of July last year, all the stats associated with the carbon tax, our emissions go up. I’m not kidding, they go up, not down. Up by eight per cent, not down by five per cent by 2020, despite a carbon tax in that year of $37 a tonne. We only get to this five per cent reduction that they talk about by in that year spending $3.5 billion buying foreign carbon credits. So on top of everything else that business has to pay, there’s this shovelling off in that year of $3.5 billion to foreign carbon traders. So it is an act of economic self harm, and the next election will undeniably be a referendum on the carbon tax and it will also be a referendum on prime ministers who don’t tell the truth before an election.
Some people say it will be hard to repeal. Well let me assure you what one parliament can do, another parliament can undo. Some people are saying, “wont’ it be hard to get through the Senate, the repeal legislation?” Well, I ask you to consider this: a Labor Party which has been comprehensively rejected by the electorate on the carbon tax is hardly likely to want to commit suicide twice by saying we will die in a ditch for this carbon tax, because dying in a ditch is assuredly what they will do politically speaking if they stick to the carbon tax after they lose an election. But if they do insist on a carbon tax after an election, we won’t hesitate to go to a double dissolution election, because I am going to lead a government which keeps its commitments and if the Government I lead finds its mandate thwarted in the Parliament, there are constitutional provisions available to us to cope with that and I think the Australian people expect a government to lead. I think the Australian people expect a government to get things done. The Australian people, rightly, give pretty short shrift to governments which blame the Opposition for their problems and I won’t lead that kind of a government. If we have to have a double dissolution, we will have a double dissolution, because the one thing I absolutely commit an incoming Coalition government to doing is getting rid of this carbon tax.
But we won’t stop there. Workplace relations is very important to people in this sector and we will move the workplace relations pendulum back to the sensible centre. You do need more flexibility in your workplace arrangements. Individual flexibility agreements must be made more workable and we will do that. We will reduce your red tape burden by $1 billion a year and we’ll do that by ensuring that every government agency and department is required to quantify the compliance costs of all of its reporting requirements and regulatory requirements and we will give every single one of them a red tape reduction target and public service bonuses will not be paid if those targets are not met. You are very concerned, and rightly so, about the availability of labour and one of the deep concerns of an incoming Coalition government will be to boost the size of the Australian workforce. There will be a paid parental leave scheme, so that we keep more women more regularly attached to the workforce. There will be more flexible childcare measures, because we want to ensure that our childcare system reflects the reality of the modern family and we want to give more parents more opportunity to be economic as well as social and cultural contributors, and yes, there will be welfare changes too because the one thing that we can’t have going forward is a something-for-nothing mindset in our society.
So ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here today. I want to congratulate all of you, but particularly Bruce Baird and John Lee for the way this industry has found its voice. You have found your voice and your voice was heard over the passenger movement charge. You didn’t defeat the increase but you did remove the most obnoxious aspect of that policy: the indexation of a charge.
What you will find from the next Coalition government is a ready set of ears and an enthusiasm to act in partnership with you. You will never find, from the next Coalition government, changes being sprung on you that we haven’t talked through because that’s not how adult governments operate. Adult governments understand that actions have consequences and they talk about the consequences with the people who will be affected by those actions. I’m looking forward to a long and productive relationship with the tourism industry after the next election. I know Bob Baldwin is looking forward to being one of the great ministers for tourism after the next election.
I think that this industry, like this country, knows that things can be so much better. We are a great country, we are a great people, currently let down by a bad government, but there is nothing, literally nothing wrong with this country right now that a change of government wouldn’t improve. So ladies and gentlemen, that is my mission: to change the government, to change the government as quickly as possible so that a great people can get the better government that they so much deserve.