Tuesday 24 May 2011

Hansard of the Legislative Council


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Thank you very much to the members for their thoughtful and detailed contributions to the debate today on this report. It was in September 2009 that we actually started the report and it has been quite a journey. A lot has been put into it, a lot of effort by the members involved and by the staff as well and it is a report that I have been proud to be involved with. I think that it gives really good food for thought, particularly to the Government, in respect of the investigations that we made and people bringing forward their opinions and their ideas from the coalface of the industry; I think it is going to be a really important document, particularly for the new Minister for Tourism. I think that if he wants to know what is happening in the tourism industry, he can go to this document and see unbiased opinions and that people unshackled by bureaucracy or by the Government have actually had their say and said what they think about what is happening in the tourism industry.
Just to comment on some of the things that have been mentioned - should I stay away from the football as a tourism entity? Thanks very much to the member for Pembroke for that advice plus also for thanking in detail the people who were involved in our report.
The member for Mersey talked about the publication of the reports - and I think we will be discussing that later on but I do agree with you, particularly when we have this very good report that we want to shout from the rooftops that this is a document well worth reading for those people in the tourism industry. I think it behoves us to get as much communication about the report out there as possible and if that is a way of doing it, so be it and that is worth debating and seeing whether that should be put into our processes for the committees.
The member for Western Tiers in a couple of comments spoke about the New Zealand experience. I think he was talking about recommendation 30 and also recommendation 29 in the recommendations, and they were about the Tasmanian Government taking a leadership role with the tourism industry, with the government bodies and major airport owners, together with New Zealand counterparts to develop a business case supporting the direct flights; then recommendation 30 was for that to be completed and progressed by the end of this financial year. From my reading of the circumstances in talking about this recommendation that has gone forward, there has been work done on this situation - the talk about the direct flight - investigations have been underway. It is a fair way down the track but I might also add that I did have a cautionary representation from somebody within the industry that in fact these negotiations are quite delicate. It is something that we must be concerned about in respect of not jumping the gun, not being too eager, not getting ahead of ourselves in respect of it being just a simple thing - you just book a plane, you get it running between the two airports, make sure your customs are in place and then away you go.
It is a delicate balance in that international airline scenario. In New Zealand we heard from tourism industry people that there is negativity about wanting to come to Tasmania and having to come through Melbourne. We had solid feedback about that. They did not like it. They would come into Melbourne and go north rather than come into Melbourne and go south. Whilst we do have people from New Zealand who come here, I think we would be able to attract more. People say, well we are very similar to New Zealand, so why would they come here? My impression is, and I did get some feedback on this, that if New Zealanders were to have an understanding of Tasmania they would be quite comfortable here. We speak English. We are friendly people.
Mr Wilkinson - It depends which year you are in.
Mr FINCH - No, that is only speaking personally. I am the 'lifestyle years', from listening to what you were saying. I also had feedback from New Zealanders that they have an understanding of our built heritage. I have mentioned already - and the member for Windermere has amplified that too - that they do have an understanding in New Zealand that we are very advanced in respect of saving our buildings and our built heritage, and making sure that it is presentable in a tourism sense. We have untapped potential at this stage. So I think New Zealanders would enjoy coming here, as Australians and Tasmanians enjoy getting an international experience in a place where they feel quite comfortable. I am a promoter of that possibility. I trust that the Government will take the signal that we have given with those recommendations, and just see what the possibilities are without pressing the point too much. It is a delicate balance with the people who service us now - I speak of Virgin Blue, Jetstar and Qantas - because we want to make sure that we deal with them well in a business sense; but it is a cooperative situation, particularly if Air New Zealand gets involved.
So thanks very much to the member for Western Tiers for talking about that. I think the member for Western Tiers was also talking about the NBN opportunities, and to a certain extent bemoaning the fact that places off the beaten track are sometimes overlooked, particularly the way the NBN is being rolled out, and the opportunities that presents. The NBN will hopefully give Tasmania a distinct advantage over other areas, and certainly benefit the tourism industry. While we are having a debate about connectivity we are going to have to include all areas of the State, whether that is with a wireless network and increasing the opportunities there; if the NBN is not available so be it. Connectivity is on everybody's lips at the moment, and that debate is a good one to be having. We are trying to draw people along that path, which is why some of the recommendations talk about the Internet and the opportunities that IT provides for the tourism industry, as reflected in New Zealand. They are making a huge success of it there, and whilst we are well down the track and doing some things very, very well, there are other things that we can ramp up to make sure that we secure our position as the top operator in Australia. That is what I would like to see.
[3.45 p.m.]
Thanks to the member for Elwick for your mention of the cable car, because I just want to highlight that I grew up on Mount Wellington. I lived there all of my younger days, so I have a connection to Mount Wellington. The old Springs Hotel was one of our haunts, and often the walk up the zigzag track to have a really good experience in the snow on top of Mount Wellington. When we talk about how a cable car would change the appearance of Mount Wellington, I only have to look at it from down the bottom and hark back to the period before the Second World War when they built the road up to the top of Mt Wellington. Who would say do not put a road up there because we might put a scar up there and we might damage the view. It is one of the most scenic sights in the world surely, from the top of Mount Wellington. Rio de Janeiro might compare, but where else? It is just a magnificent sight from the top of Mount Wellington. We need to share that. Also look at the television towers and the structures right on the pinnacle of Mount Wellington. I think that a sympathetic cable car would be no less damaging.
Mrs Taylor - No more damaging.
Mr FINCH - No more damaging to the visual impact on the mountain than those other things. It could mean those holiday-makers, those tourists staying an extra day to make that trip.
Mr Gaffney - You could have red awnings on it.
Mr FINCH - I thought you were going to say, 'and then they could travel to Latrobe to spend another day'. However, it is obvious from the contributions from the members of this House and the people who have been involved in developing this report - witnesses and staff as well - that they regard tourism as vital to the future of Tasmania. Yes, tourism is affected by global financial problems. Visitors to Australia are deterred by the high dollar and Australians are pleased and thrilled to be able to travel overseas because of the high value of the Australian dollar, but global problems affect all export industries, which is what that is. Look at the forest industry, for example. Tasmania is lucky because tourism does not just rely on overseas visitors. We have travellers from Australia who know the value and how good we are at doing tourism in Tasmania - albeit we have had some comments about 'Is you right there?' We can work on accreditation and hospitality and the report highlights those things. I think that it is really something for us to think about.
We have those travellers within Australia; yes, a lot of them are choosing the overseas trip because of the strength of the dollar but there is still that big pool of Australians who can be attracted to Tasmania. There is so much that the Tasmanian industry can do to grow in the way we meet and greet our visitors despite the global problems. This report is essential reading for those involved in the tourism industry - particularly for our new tourism minister. Thank you to all the witnesses who went out of their way to provide a treasure trove of information from the coalface of this industry. Thank you to members for their contributions. I commend the report to the House.
Report noted.