PRIVATE MEMBER'S STATEMENT - Tourism Industry
Ms JENNY AITCHISON (Maitland) (19:47): It is just two weeks since I attended an event with Tourism Accommodation Australia in Sydney where people spoke eloquently of the desperate need that is being experienced by many accommodation providers not just in our regional areas but also in the CBD of Sydney and in places like Parramatta in western Sydney. In my electorate of Maitland, we have seen tourism businesses really struggle over the past year. With the drought and the bushfires last summer before COVID and then with COVID happening after them, it has been a very challenging time for the industry. So I was a little surprised when I saw the announcement by the Government earlier this week of a $3.5 million package of grants for tourism operators. I just felt that it was such a missed opportunity.
I have raised this with the Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney directly, but I will put on record that more needs to be done for accommodation providers, tour operators and all those working in tourism. There is a massive day coming for everyone in the tourism industry in this State, and that is 31 March when JobKeeper runs out. Operators are waiting for those cuts to come and they are terrified of the bludgeoning their business will take and the money they will haemorrhage as a result. I have been trying to engage with the Government since last year. I held a coach tour roundtable in the middle of the year and people like Rob Sinclair from Here to There Coaches has spoken to me about this issue.
Last week the shadow Minister for Finance and Small Business and the shadow Treasurer asked the Government to look at things like getting rid of fees and charges for tour vehicle operators. It can cost $10,000 a year to register a tourism vehicle. If you have had just one or two jobs in the past 12 months, the prospect of opting in and back out is untenable. Other jurisdictions have allowed tourism operators to take photos of the odometers on their vehicles when they want to deregister them. That has not been available to operators in New South Wales. I know of coaches all over New South Wales that are sitting there unregistered. Their operators will not even be able to get them back on the road if they manage to be lucky enough to get a job.
The tourism accommodation sector is devastated in the city and it is going to be a huge issue. Think about the number of visitors that came into Sydney from international destinations on a normal day before COVID. That inbound traffic has just gone. All of the events, conferences, meetings and weddings that were being held in our Sydney, western Sydney and south-western Sydney hotels and motels are just gone. Once JobKeeper runs out, how will those businesses be able to pay workers? They will just lose their jobs. I am urging the Government to do more. Every other jurisdiction in Australia has had something like the Government's Dine & Discover voucher in place for far longer. Victoria had the Victorian Tourism Recovery Package, a $200 voucher for those who spend $400 on accommodation, attractions or tours. The Northern Territory had up to $400 for accommodation and kilometre rebates. Tasmania had up to $150 for accommodation and experiences. Western Australia had $100 for tours or experiences. South Australia had up to $100 for accommodation. The Australian Capital Territory had the Choose Canberra Project. Even South Australia had $50 for experiences for locals.
We have four $25 vouchers. People in Maitland do not want to come to Sydney to get $25 off at a restaurant. That is not an incentive to travel to the city. My son is currently in Adelaide. He has had a lifelong ambition to be a coach driver. He turned 21 on 21 December, he got his public passenger licence and he asked for tourism jobs. Do you know where could get a bus driver's job? At the moment, he is driving from Adelaide to Coober Pedy. That is what is there for him. He has been offered a job at Longreach in Queensland; he has been offered jobs in the Northern Territory at Uluru. Where are the coach touring jobs and the tourism jobs in New South Wales? The Government has got to get off its backside and provide support to our tourism industry before it is too late.