Address to the 2013 Perth Airport Western Australian Tourism Awards

Speech, E&OE, (check against delivery)

Perth

9 November 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, I acknowledge my State parliamentary colleagues, in particular Minister John Day and Terry Redman, the Deputy Lord Mayor Counsellor Rob Butler and all tourism industry representative members here this evening.

It is my very great pleasure to be at the 2013 Perth Airport Western Australian Tourism Awards and I commend the Tourism Council for its outstanding representation of tourism operators and I commend all the sponsors for supporting this celebration of the very best that Western Australia has to offer in terms of tourism experiences.

On the 7th of September, Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott said Australia was under new management and was open for business. For the tourism sector that meant that this Federal Government recognises that tourism is a national strength, that it employs over 500,000 Australians, that it contributes over $40 billion to national GDP, that it’s our largest services sector export earner, bringing an increased eight per cent to national exports and that is an extraordinary summary of an extraordinary industry.

So that is why the Federal Government has moved the portfolio of tourism into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the very first time because we believe that tourism is a key component of our overall foreign policy and trade and investment agenda.

Let me give you a few examples. Tourism Australia will now be part of our international engagement in that as far as possible, Tourism Australia representatives will be co-located in our embassies and missions overseas, an integral part of our foreign and trade policy. It also means that we will have a truly Team Australia approach to international engagement. It means as Foreign Minister when I host overseas visitors, the tourism experience is a part of our diplomatic efforts.

Last week for example, I hosted the Foreign Ministers of 20 Indian Ocean rim nations, from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, India through to Yemen, Oman, South Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles. And they all came to Perth as part of what’s called the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Western Australia was the venue for the IORA Indian Ocean Rim Association meeting as Australia is to chair this association for the very first time in its 18-year history. And of course, Perth as Australia’s Indian Ocean capital city was the obvious place to hold this meeting.

On the Thursday night they arrived, we entertained them at the West Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle and the dinner was held in the exhibition space under Australia II. I told them a story about the Australia II and how we beat the Americans in 1983 and they all cheered. I didn’t talk about 1987, I just didn’t want to ruin the story!

The next day we held our conference at the Hyatt Regency. That night we had dinner at Frasers, and the following day a number of them not able to return home until flights later that night and we took them on a river cruise up to the Sandalford Winery where they had a magnificent lunch and were actually able to touch a wombat, a koala and a joey on the grounds of Sandalford.

On the way home I said to the foreign ministers, ‘well where would you like to have the meeting next year, given there are 19 others countries?’ And in unison they said ‘to Perth and we are going to bring our families’.

The Federal Government believes that its primary responsibility, in terms of tourism, is first to bring more international visitors to Australia to experience what we have to offer here. And in that regards we will work closely to increase the number of aviation services into this country with our 24 airline partners that work with Tourism Australia and I’m pleased to say that Perth will be seeing more airline services into this state, through partnerships with Air New Zealand, China Southern, Emirates, Malaysian Airlines and Scoot Airlines will be bringing in their flights from Singapore to Perth at the end of this year.

But it’s also the responsibility of the Federal Government to create a better environment, to be more conducive to tourism, that means freezing the passenger movement charge. It means ensuring that it’s easier to get tourism visas to Australia, to cut the unnecessary red tape and regulation around the tourism industry and that’s what we are determined to do.

We need to create an environment that allows tourism operators to do what they do best, provide high quality experience, for domestic and international tourists.

So, on behalf of the Federal Government I wish you all the very best in your endeavours to ensure that tourism remains one of our country’s greatest strengths and I pay tribute to all finalists and the winners this evening for playing their part in making that dream come true.

Thank you.

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