Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 30 June 2005) . . Page.. 2561 ..
MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (4.10): Economic development is a very important line in the budget because in the future it will, of course, help pay the bills that we as a territory accumulate. One of the areas we looked at was the tourism industry. It is a major industry for the ACT, a substantial generator of employment and generator of activity in associated and ancillary industries. I guess there was some concern, therefore, about reduction in visitor numbers over recent times and therefore about the development of the major events unit within the tourism organisation.
It was also interesting to learn during the estimates hearings of what appears to be a poor relationship between ACT Capital Tourism Corporation and Tourism Australia. I would have thought that, especially for a small jurisdiction, our relationship with the national organisation would be as strong as possible so we could leverage off our limited resources, particularly in the international market, but we find that apparently Tourism Australia left the ACT off its maps. How extraordinary that Tourism Australia ignored the nation’s capital! That is just a nonsense. Moreover, Tourism Australia could only find a balloon fiesta to be an, or should I say the, attraction for the ACT. I would say it is paramount that tourism interests in the ACT have as a priority the establishment of a sound and continuing effective relationship with Tourism Australia so that we are not forgotten. I think that would overcome the problems summarised by Mr Ross MacDiarmid as Tourism Australia not talking to tourism people in the ACT. You must have that both ways.
I am also concerned about the priority accorded to major events by the Tourism Corporation. Of course this government made much of events and disbanding of previous events units, but now we see the re-establishment of the events unit. It is interesting that, when you add up the numbers, if you take the existing staff for Floriade and the existing staff for the Subaru rally, there would be 11 staff. There are apparently something like four new positions, which would take the number up to about 15. After initial questioning we were told that there is no reduction in the number of people in the events unit but, when we probed, the 15 seem to have dissolved down to 10.
We have a new event coming on line, which is the Brindabella challenge—well done to the Treasurer for getting that up and running—but it was surprising to find a reduction in the staffing of the major events unit. We have more work but fewer people. You would have to say that is a good outcome in theory—increased productivity and all that—but I think it is a strange way of resourcing priority activities, given that we have only had the one new event in the past 3½ years. The Brindabella challenge will fill a gap in the ACT’s annual events calendar. If it is to succeed it will require a commitment of resources until it is safely established in our calendar. I am concerned not only at the lack of apparent staff to back to it up but also it was strange to see that the government will reduce funding for the challenge after the first year. Again this calls into question the resourcing of this event until it is established.
Tourism is a key industry for the ACT and it deserves better than the approach adopted by this government. An issue that for some years has been of particular concern, and still is of concern, to me is the National Convention Centre. The record of this minister and the Stanhope government on progressing the whole issue of the refurbishment and extension of the convention centre and then the possible establishment of a new and permanent National Convention Centre is extremely disappointing. You need only