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Gaffe by Minister of Tourism and Minister of Much Else

July 1, 2013 Corporate, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Australia’s Tourism Minister Gary Gray has apologised profusely for telling people last week that Nelson Mandela had died.

“I apologise unreservedly and am deeply sorry to have relayed what I thought was reliable advice,” Gray said.

Last week, Gray addressed the Minerals Council of Australia’s official dinner in place of then Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The dinner was immediately after the momentous ALP leadership meeting and Gillard had other things to think about. So did Gray, apparently.

The dinner was at Parliament House.

Gray has since relayed an apology over his Mandela blunder to the South African High Commissioner, Federal Parliament and the Minerals Council of Australia.

Gray was addressing the Minerals Council of Australia on the evening because his vast and challenging portfolio requires him to wear three proverbial hats. On 25 March 2013, Gray was appointed to the Australian Cabinet as the Minister for Resources and Energy, the Minister for Tourism, and the Minister for Small Business.

Small Business and Tourism sit pretty well together, as most tourism businesses are small. But Resources and Energy is another field altogether.

The portfolio mix is an odd one. It’s hard for anyone to do justice to such a wide and diverse array of concerns.

The split, as gauged from his departmental website, runs on these lines:

Number of speeches listed since being appointed in March: 14

Of those:

  • Speeches on energy, resources and other matters: 14
  • Speeches on tourism: 0

Number of media releases listed since being appointed in March: 55

Of those:

  • Media releases on energy and resources: 39
  • Media releases on tourism: 7
  • Media releases on other matters: 9

Tourism appears to be heavy outgunned. Energy and resources represents a bigger sector of the Australian economy than tourism, admittedly, but tourism employs many more people.

Gray was appointed by Gillard in the ministerial overhaul forced by resignations following the collapse of the abortive Kevin Rudd leadership threat three months ago – the one that preceded Rudd’s successful leadership challenge late last week.

Gray became the sixth holder of the Small Business portfolio under the Gillard government in less than three years.

Tourism’s contribution to Australian gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010-11 was AUD 73.3 billion, or 5.2% share of the Australian economy. Total tourism gross value added (GVA) was AUD 69.1 billion, representing a 5.3% share of the Australian economy.

Mining contributed 9.5% to Australia’s total Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2010-11 with the two largest mining states, Western Australia (55%) and Queensland (20%), accounting for three-quarters of mining GVA.

In comparison, tourism directly contributed a 2.4% share of Australia’s total GVA in 2010-11. The largest contributors by Australian state and territory were New South Wales (33%), Queensland (24%) and Victoria (21%).

Tourism employs nearly twice as many people as mining. A study by Tourism Research Australia last year showed that tourism directly and indirectly employed 907,100 people, representing 7.9% of total Australian employment. Total tourism GDP rose at an average annual rate of 4% between 1997-98 and 2010-11. This growth was lower than the 6.9% annual growth in GDP for the national economy.

So much for tourism and resources. Then there’s small business, another can of worms. A lot for any minister to handle.

Written by Peter Needham

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