Good evening and congratulations to the National Tourism Alliance on its tenth anniversary.
Thank you for inviting me to speak here tonight on this special occasion.
The NTA has acted as a communications gateway for the tourism industry by liaising with the Australian Government, key Commonwealth Departments and agencies, and national and state industry associations.
Your contribution is valuable for both industry and government.
I won’t make this a history lesson, but some previously unimaginable things have taken place since 2001 and they’ve changed our lives and our industry.
Sequentially, these include the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Bali Bombings in 2002, the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and the Japanese Tsunami of April this year.
Then there have been countless other natural disasters, including the tragic bushfires and cyclones in Australia, volcanic eruptions and ongoing wars and revolts.
In the middle of all these momentous events – the industry has been trying to sell and deliver a tourist product.
The currency markets have not helped in this task either.
In September 2001, the Australian dollar was trading at around 51 US cents – half its value now.
Role of the National Tourism Alliance
Communications have become more sophisticated, the range of challenges the industry faces have changed but the NTA has continued in its role facilitating positive communication between industry and government.
The NTA’s members represent the diversity of the industry including state and territory industry councils, the Tourism & Transport Forum, the Australian Hotels Association, the Board of Airline Representatives, and Restaurant & Catering Australia.
The issues the NTA has dealt with over the past ten years are as diverse as its membership. These include:
- An analysis of taxes and assistance impacting the tourism industry commissioned in 2003.
- A submission on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2008.
- A Submission to the Productivity Commission’s current study on the regulatory role of local government and its impact on business costs.
- Ongoing analysis and monitoring of the impact of government policies and measures on the industry, including the Australian Government’s Budget.
The NTA is consistently working with government and industry to promote and further industry interests. This valuable work includes:
- Convening the quarterly Ministerial Roundtable
- Participating in implementation of the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy
- Supporting the Department of Resources and Energy in the implementation of key policy measures, like the current information sessions on 457 visas.
The Government is aware of some issues of immediate concern to you - the extension of the working holiday maker program, review of the 457 visa process and the provision of capital works deduction incentives.
Working Holiday Maker program
RET is talking to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and other government agencies to progress possible changes to the working holiday makers program.
I support this process being industry led and note the Australian Tourism Export Council has drafted a business case, along with industry, for changes to the WHM visa.
I encourage NTA to work closely with the Labour and Skills Working Group to ensure a consistent position and approach is delivered to the Government on the merit of the proposal.
457 visa process
The tourism related sector accounted for 6 per cent - or 2770 - of all section 457 visas issued in 2010-11.
DIAC has developed a guide for the tourism and hospitality industry after input from in the industry.
The guide outlines the main requirements for a 457 visa and other migration programs, and focuses on those areas tourism operators see as difficult.
DIAC has begun holding two-hour information sessions in all capital cities and Cairns.
I welcome the way NTA has supported these sessions.
Strong participation sends a clear message to Government. It reinforces the point that shortages are having a tangible impact on the industry and give extra support to any case arguing for expanding the migration program.
Capital works deduction incentives
On Capital works deduction incentives, Minister Ferguson has written to the Treasurer, on behalf of all Tourism Ministers, to request consideration of an incentive for hotel investment.
The Australian Government already has in place a wide range of measures to support investment in tourism supply, including TQUAL grants and funding for major infrastructure projects.
It’s a busy week of tourism industry meetings and events here in Sydney.
This morning I chaired the Tourism Access Working Group.
Tomorrow Martin Ferguson will launch the updated National Long-Term Tourism Strategy - at the Ministerial Roundtable. Of course, NTA members have seats at that table.
All industry groups have an interest in the Strategy and I’m sure everyone welcomes the update.
The Australian Government’s aims with the strategy remain as focused as ever - to provide industry, in partnership with the States and Territories, the tools to compete more effectively in the global economy and to take advantage of the opportunities Asia presents.
Under the Strategy, the Prime Minister has tasked me with the responsibility for ensuring tourism is ready to capitalise on the advantages the National Broadband Network will bring.
One of the greatest challenges facing businesses is that, although nine out of 10 are connected to the internet, only about a third are using it effectively to their benefit.
We need tourism businesses to capitalise on the NBN if they are to compete with tourism businesses around the world.
As you all know, the NBN will make it possible for Australian companies to deliver more sophisticated techniques, marketing and content on their websites - to potential overseas and domestic customers.
The curse “may you live in interesting times” has been all too pervasive these past ten years.
I hope the next decade will be boring, uneventful and productive.
We do know tourism will continue to face a changing and challenging environment.
The updated Strategy will provide a renewed impetus for government and industry to work together to grow and strengthen our $34 billion industry.
I am looking forward to working together with you for a great future - I know NTA will play a key role in this over the next ten years, no matter what the times throw at us.
Happy 10th Anniversary.