Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (8 June) . . Page.. 2007..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
promotion. They were asked: do you believe that the private sector should fund the promotion and marketing of tourism? Seventy per cent said yes, the private sector should fund tourism; 19 per cent said no, and 10 per cent did not know. Seventy per cent of people thought it would be okay for private tourism to promote itself.
They were also asked: do you believe the ACT government should fund the promotion and marketing of tourism? Eighty-five per cent of people thought it would be a government responsibility because they understand that it creates jobs. In 2002-03 there were 11,500 jobs in ACT tourism, and people responded that the government should expend money on tourism because they saw that the community got a dividend-$107 million in a financial year to the government in revenue from an investment of $20 million. That is a pretty good return.
Courtesy of the minister today-good timing, minister-we can see that over the last two years there has been a 10 per cent drop in visitor numbers. That seems to correlate to the 10 per cent drop in government funding over the last two years. But do not trust me. The tourism industry council did the numbers as well and they said that when you reduce spending on the promotion of Canberra as a whole, then you suffer. When spending goes up, then you reap a dividend.
I can say with great confidence that there is no strategy, no foresight, no understanding and no commitment from this government, from this Treasurer or from this tourism minister to broadening the tax base. If the government wants to spend more on the hospitals and more on education, if it wants to put more police on the streets and build infrastructure, it has to broaden the tax base. Clearly, the numbers from the Access Economics report, from the tourism industry council research and from the minister's own report show how it can be achieved.
But, no, the government is going to put its blinkers on and accept this cockeyed report that seems to suggest we spend more than any other jurisdiction. But the report is not comparing apples with apples because, when we talk about tourism funding in the ACT, we are talking about both tourism funding and events funding. They are wrapped in together and it is disingenuous, or incredibly lazy, or potentially deceitful. It should be corrected because it gives the wrong perception. It means that the government is hawking figures that are not right.
The recent Victorian budget contains extra money for tourism and extra money for major events, and that is the way it is done. The combined total is $72 million, with $52 million allocated directly to tourism and $12 million to events. That is how every other jurisdiction does it.
When this combined figure was used, the tourism industry council came out and said the government was wrong. You are absolutely wrong, and you should have the courage to say so. We have had the chat about critical mass: if we put the entire $3 billion budget into tourism, we would get $33 billion back. We all know that there is a point where the law of diminishing returns cuts in, but I do not believe that we have reached that point. There is this logic that says that, because Victoria spends $8 a head, maybe we should be chasing Victoria.