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Tax impact on tourism still not explained

The federal government has revealed that Treasury and Tourism Departments had still not modelled the impacts of a carbon tax on the sector.

Federal shadow tourism minister Bob Baldwin repeated calls for modelling to be conducted with urgency, to determine both supply and demand pressures on tourism.

“The government must face up to the fact that tourists are getting no carbon tax compensation – and that wealth redistribution amongst Australians will affect their decisions to holiday,” Mr Baldwin said

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Federal shadow tourism minister Bob Baldwin

The prime minister dodged this question in parliament last week, attempting instead to focus on climate change and the Great Barrier Reef. Yet that performance by the prime minister highlights the inadequacy of $650b that will be spent in buying offshore credits that would do nothing to contain the Crown Of Thorns starfish outbreak decimating the reef, according to Mr Baldwin.

On the ‘supply’ side, there are genuine fears around the cumulative business costs impacting restaurants, hotels, airlines, attractions, adventure tourism operators and other businesses that use electricity or fuel. Mr Baldwin called for modelling to help businesses identify what costs can be reasonably passed on to the consumer. For example a restaurant meal would cost more because of electricity related business input costs: groceries (including supermarket transport and refrigeration costs); cooking appliances; lighting; • vacuum cleaning; and • restaurant till and computers.

While officers at last week’s Senate Estimates tried to assert that the carbon tax wasn’t a “hot issue” for the tourism sector, under cross examination they acknowledged the industry had expressed concern over expected tourism revenues losses of $731 million and anticipated job losses totalling 6400 Australians.

Mr Baldwin indicated a good starting point for any modelling, was the assertion by the minister for resources, energy and tourism that the carbon tax is “an elitist tax, on domestic flights… (that) would have us kill the Australian aviation industry both domestically and internationally”; comments that were made before the prime minister broke her promise on a carbon tax.

Mr Baldwin said the treasurer’s announcement of a reduction in the Environment Management Charge of $2.50 per Great Barrier Reef visitor to offset the impacts of the carbon tax showed the government acknowledged the huge impact of the carbon tax; and signalled that the government had begun to “pick winners”.

“Now the government has begun the process of picking winners by paying off the steel industry with a Carbon Tax Assistance Package of $300 million and through sneaky backroom payments by lifting the Great Barrier Reef Visitor Levy, it is ‘game on’ for any tourism business expecting some relief,” Mr Baldwin said.

“The carbon tax will cost the tourism sector alone some $731 million, so the government’s total carbon tax adjustment package for small business $120 million is woefully inadequate. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park tourism operators deserve their relief. Yet Port Stephens whale watching operators, the Spirit Of Tasmania ferry and other tourism businesses are no less deserving. Exposed businesses in the tourism sector will start queuing for special treatment, in advance of the tax starting on 1 July,” Mr Baldwin said.

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