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What, no tourism minister in new Abbott ministry?

September 18, 2013 Corporate, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Those who have been wondering who will be appointed tourism minister in Australia’s new Abbott government need wonder no more. There isn’t one.

Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott’s decision to axe the role of a dedicated federal tourism minister has shocked the industry, which just before the election had extolled the prospect of a Coalition government as positive for tourism. Abbott will be sworn in today as Prime Minister, the 28th in Australia’s history.

It will be the first time in 40 years that Australia hasn’t had a dedicated tourism minister. It will also, incidentally, be the first time in over 80 years that Australia hasn’t had a science minister (except for a window between 1963 and 1966). The new line-up has got rid of that position as well.

Gold Coast Tourism chief Martin Winter, who described as “alarming” the decision to remove tourism as a cabinet portfolio, was among those to speak out on the subject.

Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) managing director Felicia Mariani, who just before the election said that the Coalition’s Policy for Tourism provided “a strong platform to support the 250x250export tourism industry” said yesterday that the idea of having no tourism minister at all was a “scary concept” which sent a negative message to the industry.

ATEC expressed disappointment that tourism no longer has a dedicated minister and said the industry must be recognised for its AUD 28 billion contribution to the national economy.

The tourism portfolio’s responsibilities will be split between Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb, who will deal with international tourism, and Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane, who will oversee domestic tourism.

“While we welcome this whole of Government approach, we need to have a clearly defined minister who has a responsibility for the tourism industry on a day-to-day basis.” Mariani added.

Paterson MP Bob Baldwin, who has worked hard for the past three years as shadow minister for tourism and who was tipped by many to become tourism minister, missed out on any place in the federal cabinet. He was named Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane, a shift generally considered a demotion and seen by some as a snub to tourism.

Abbott himself defended his decision on tourism, telling the Gold Coast Bulletin that the industry was still important.

“I want to promote tourism,” he told the paper. “I intend, through a deregulation agenda, to make it easier for the tourism industry.”

The Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) has gone along with this. Intriguingly, the TCF greeted the move to abolish tourism’s ministerial ranking not with alarm but with rapture, declaring that the industry was “excited about the potential benefits that arise from aligning international tourism with foreign affairs and trade”.

Though the excitement seemed lacking from other quarters, TTF chief executive Ken Morrison said aligning international tourism with foreign affairs and trade made good sense.

“TTF is pleased to see Tourism Australia positioned under the umbrella of foreign affairs and trade,” Morrison said.

“This is a sensible arrangement which will ensure that tourism is considered in the decision making around Australia’s foreign policy and acknowledges the gateway role that tourism plays in helping foster international relationships for business, education and investment.

“Economic diplomacy of this type will help to drive synergies in the promotion of Australia as an international destination, leveraging the activities of other Australian agencies in key source markets.

“We congratulate Andrew Robb on his appointment as Minister for Trade and Investment and look forward to working with him to grow international visitation to Australia.

“Tourism is an economic development strategy for Australia, driving economic activity in every part of the country and providing jobs and business opportunities.

“While the mining investment boom may be waning, the people boom is just beginning and Australia is well-positioned to capitalise on growing demand in Asia for international travel.

“We believe the new portfolio arrangements will help Australia maximise the potential of this unprecedented opportunity.”

The diverging opinions on the issue expose a sharp divide between APEC and TTF, rivals who consistently promote themselves with phrases such as “peak export tourism industry association” and “peak national industry body”.

Written by : Peter Needham

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