Albanese accuses Abbott of enormous error of judgement

Anthony Albanese has attacked the federal government’s tourism policy which, he says, is hurting the tourism industry.

The shadow minister for infrastructure, transport and tourism made the attack in the Brisbane Times accusing Mr Abbott of “dismantling support for the sector” since coming to office ten months ago.

“If the prime minister suddenly decided the Australian wheat industry was irrelevant to his government, there would be a national outcry. Australians are smart enough to know that the wheat industry is a critical part of the national economy, providing jobs and deserving of government support. But right now, Tony Abbott is walking away from an industry that is eight times the size and employs three times as many people – tourism.

“For the first time in 40 years, Australia has no minister for tourism. Mr Abbott has cut tourism grants and sacked researchers providing crucial data to investors and industry. He has also abandoned all responsibility for domestic tourism marketing, flick passing this critical sector to state governments,” wrote Mr Albanese who was minister of transport in the last Labor government.

“Domestic tourism accounts for 70% of Australia’s tourism sector, with overnight visitors and day trippers spending a combined $70 billion per year. Despite this, Mr Abbott has ordered Tourism Australia to focus solely on international marketing, with states left to fend for themselves at the same time as the government is asking them to absorb massive cuts in education and health spending imposed in his federal budget.

“The budget also axed funding for Australia Week in China, which promotes our nation to one of our most important growth markets, after 2015-16. Last month Mr Abbott axed the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Survey of Tourist Accommodation before giving it a reprieve of just one year, a decision described by the Tourism and Transport Forum as unacceptable. On June 30, with just one hour’s notice to the sector, he abolished the national T-Qual quality tick, the symbol which tells visitors that they are receiving a quality tourism product, despite promising to transfer its management to industry before the election.

“Putting all this together, it is clear that the Abbott government is treating tourism as though it means nothing to Australia and its economy. That is an enormous error of judgement,” says Mr Albanese.

“Mr Abbott’s approach is dismissive of the many Australian communities that rely on tourism for their bread and butter. Across Queensland and in the Northern Territory, Tasmania and many regions, tourism is the major employer. Yet so far we have heard only deafening silence on the tourism cuts from Coalition and National MPs representing those electorates.

“It’s not just the towns and cities on our tourism strip that are losing out here. Every Australian relies on the success of tourism to underwrite national prosperity. Just as we all have a stake in the success of the wheat industry, we all need a successful tourism industry,” he wrote in the Brisbane Times.

“When Labor left office, Australia was hitting its targets to reach the goal of doubling overnight expenditure by 2020, and we were first in the world for average spending by international visitors. Tony Abbott’s systematic withdrawal from the tourism sector will jeopardise that success.”

“Meeting with 40 tourism leaders in Canberra last month, I was surprised to learn that the government could not find a single minister or parliamentary secretary to do the same. Had it been 40 of the top wheat producers gathered from all corners of the country, you can bet your bottom dollar they wouldn’t have been left out in the cold.”

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