JAYSON Westbury, chief executive AFTA
Election fun and games
At the time of writing this month’s travelBulletin column, the date of the Federal Election was not known, but it was very clear that Australia is in election mode.
During the first week of the Federal Parliament resuming after the long summer break, an historic defeat for a sitting Prime Minister took place in the form of the legislation passing with the support of Labor and the cross bench, demonstrating that the Government does not have control of the lower house of Parliament. This is something that has not happened since the 1920s, and demonstrates to all Australians the problem with not having a Government who is running the country.
As the election battle lines are drawn it is becoming very clear that the issue of border control and protection will be a very serious fighting ground for both major parties. There are likely only between 11 and 15 days of parliament sitting before the election. With the federal budget slated to be delivered one month earlier than normal on 2 April, I expect that the election date will be called not long after that. So a late April or early May election is likely.
For our industry the key statement, and one that we always look forward to, is the tourism policy that I hope both major parties released sooner rather than later.
In past elections we have had times when a tourism policy did not get released and this in part caused the Passenger Movement Charge (PMC) changes, when the coalition did not commit to a policy in advance of the election. This meant they were able to do as they wish, which you might recall is what they did.
The current PMC is set at $60 per passenger, for a five-year period. In the lead up to the election, the industry at large will be hoping to see a pre-commitment or pre-election policy statement from both the Coalition and Labor as to what their policy plans are for the travel and tourism industry.
These documents are important as they provide a strong statement of support (one would hope) for the industry. They also spell out specifics for support for Tourism Australia and other activities and policy areas that impact upon our industry and enable us as an industry to hold the government to account.
For this reason AFTA and many other travel and tourism bodies will be calling on both sides of the political fence to have a pre-election tourism policy.
We shall see if this happens and I hope for the sake of the industry that neither party dream up any new regulations or red tape that might impact upon our international competitiveness or stymie the ability for Australian travel and tourism businesses to prosper and thrive.