Supply Bill 2019 Speech

Supply Bill 2019 second reading debate

The Hon. Z.L. BETTISON (Ramsay) (17:13): I rise in response to the Supply Bill in my capacity as shadow minister for trade, tourism and investment. I take this opportunity to hold the government to account on this important economic portfolio—a portfolio that is responsible for delivering billions of dollars of economic activity to our state.

The primary agencies responsible for the oversight and delivery of these economic benefits are the South Australian Tourism Commission and the Department for Trade, Tourism and Investment. The commission is a statutory body under the South Australian Tourism Commission Act 1993. They describe themselves as being focused on marketing our state to national and international audiences and on bringing new and exciting events, conferences and festivals to South Australia.

The role of the Department for Trade, Tourism and Investment, which was formed on 1 July 2018, is to support businesses to connect with overseas markets, create strong international relationships and capitalise on export opportunities. The opposition supports the overarching objectives of both these public sector agencies. However, the opposition will not stand for the complete lack of leadership and lack of direction the Liberal government has provided.

Let's talk about tourism in its first year of government: an $11 million cut out of the budget overnight in an industry that employs 36,000 South Australians. Forty per cent of tourism spend is in the regions, which are an incredibly important part of our economy. This $11 million cut has sent the industry backwards.

This means that we are behind in a very competitive industry. It is a short-sighted decision by this very new Treasurer, who is desperately looking around for efficiencies and savings. He says, 'No-one is going to notice this much. We'll just cut $11 million from the budget,' but people have noticed. Not only have the people who invest in tourism and who work in tourism noticed but the facts will stand for themselves when we get the tourism results and we see where we stand.

Tourism Research Australia is the group that puts together all the consolidated information of facts and figures. International visitors are down 3.2 per cent, international visitor spend is down 3.5 per cent and international visit nights are down 9 per cent. This is what happens when you cut $11 million from the budget. Our regional day trips are down as well. We know that areas such as the Barossa, McLaren Vale and the Limestone Coast, many of which are experiencing drought, are seeing this impact of the downturn. There is a $70 million difference in regional day trips in the last 12 months compared with the previous 12 months.

Tourism is booming everywhere else. This afternoon we have had some new figures. The Tourism Satellite Account from Tourism Research Australia offers us some very detailed analysis about tourism in Australia. When they refer to the longer term, tourism has become a more important part of Australia's economy; it now has a 3.1 per cent share of the national GDP. Tourism is a resilient industry. Even though it had slowed down over the global financial crisis, tourism has continued to grow, and domestic tourism has driven growth.

We know that tourism is a supergrowth industry, and we have some pockets in South Australia that continue to grow. However, we now know that the current $6.8 billion value of the economic contribution of the South Australian visitor economy is down $100 million from earlier valuations. When you cut $11 million from the budget, it has an impact. This comes at a boom time for all other states, particularly those whose state governments and territory governments are backing spend in tourism.

As we come up to the next state budget, people are very concerned that another cut is going to come. We need to make sure that South Australia gets its fair share of the national tourism market, and that means that there is a recognition by this government that tourism is important. Tourism is a huge employer. Tourism gives economic growth throughout the whole of South Australia. Rather than being ignored or rather than the belief that no-one will notice, tourism needs to be supported.

As we come up to the next state budget, you will hear me talk about 'tourism equals jobs'. What I want to do is create an awareness of the importance of tourism. I want to make sure that it is not ignored again. I want to make sure that, as the pie of tourism is growing in Australia at a great rate, we are not missing out. I want our fair share, but we have to go out and grab it.

I also want to talk about the other aspects of my shadow portfolio. I particularly want to talk about the trade area. When it comes to trade investment, this government has brought nothing but chaos and confusion. In its first year, the Marshall Liberal government abolished two successful investment attraction agencies, made two machinery of government changes and had a mass exodus of senior trade officials. In fact, it was described as 'a bureaucratic bloodbath' gutting the trade agency, with deep cuts and half a dozen officials shown the door. This is our agency that sells South Australia to the world. It is about attracting companies here and creating jobs. Yet what we have seen is this continual change.

First of all, the new government says, 'We are going to change the department.' Okay, that is your prerogative, and then, 'It is not going to be the Department of State Development; we are going to split it to be Infrastructure and Skills and we are going to have the Department of Trade, Tourism and Investment. We are going to get rid of Investment Attraction SA and we are going to dismiss health industries. That's how we are going to do it. We are going to set up the new department on 1 July.' Fantastic.

We get to estimates and I ask, 'Can I have an organisational chart?' They reply, 'We are not quite there yet.' I am still waiting for an organisational chart. We have now had a second machinery of government change, starting on 1 April. We now have a new title, Innovations and Skills, reflecting the focus of the department, but we have just seen more additions to the Department of Trade, Tourism and Investment. At the same time, we have lost a CE—who knows when we are going to get another one—and I think up to six officials have gone. How can they be concentrating on our trade when this is happening?

While all these things are happening, the government decides to have a review, the Joyce review, which has come out just recently. It is a review that provided recommendations that it must invest in a different way. What this means is that 13 months after forming government there is still no clear direction in the way our state will conduct its trade and investment strategies.

I have talked about the organisational chart that still cannot be provided to me. The other area I have raised time and time again is having a forward calendar of trade missions. There was much criticism of the previous minister, that is, 'You are doing too much; you are going there,' but what we have now is nothing. There is no ability for businesses to plan ahead. With a calendar that is produced in advance, you know people in your businesses, in your areas, need to know if they are going to invest to go on these trade missions. In 2018, only 52 South Australians went on outbound trade missions overseas. This is in massive contrast with 2016 and 2017, when more than 400 delegates went out there to sell our state.

We know that the government has an interim program because of the Joyce review, a review that cost us $108,000 for 17 days' work; that is $6,381 per day. I am sure it was worth it, but it is a fair bit of kit. What does the review say? The first thing it says is that we should call a halt to this idea about trade offices. The big election commitment was to roll out trade offices in Japan, Malaysia, Dubai, probably one in the US and, I think, in KL in Malaysia, but the review said, 'Let's call a halt to increasing the number of new trade offices.' There was also a recommendation to be more strategic about trade missions.

I had a bit of a sense of deja vu when I read the Joyce report because it seemed to me that we were going back to very similar recommendations made in previous reviews that occurred many years ago that the Labor government adopted. Further, we see that the growth agenda that was announced is simply just a rehash of elements of the state strategic plan that this government dismantled, so when we are thinking about trade and investment policies we are just going back to the future. It is like history repeating itself without considering lessons from the past.

During the 2018 election campaign, the Premier promised an export-led recovery of the state economy, but under his watch the minister and the Premier have presided over South Australia's worst trade performance in 30 years. This is a trade slump that has led to a significant decline in the national share of exports—a measure that this government uses as a benchmark.

The Joyce review also talked about a program of trade missions. Once again, a little bit like the organisational chart, I asked time and time again: what is your plan? How do people know that you are going to go on a trade mission? How do people know that there is an inbound mission happening? I got the answer that they show an expression of interest. That is not a way to plan. That is not a way that you can say to South Australians that we are serious about trade. That is not a way that you can say to people, 'Let's work together and let me support you when we go away overseas,' so we know we are back to the future again.

The Joyce review has said that those trade missions should have a forward calendar so that people can be part of that. When it comes to tourism, trade and investment, I call on this government to get its act together. The opportunities for growing our exports and tourism are out there for our state to take advantage of, but in order to do this, the minister and this government need to provide direction and lead from the front.

These areas of our economy are too important. Tourism is a huge contributor to our economy and a huge employer. It must have the attention it deserves. We have been given mixed messages on trade. I cannot believe that we say we are going to do one thing, we change our minds, we get rid of half of the department and then we say, 'Hang on, we are just going to go back to what we did before.' Get it together. This is important for our future because we are at the lowest slump in exports that we have been in for decades. Every other place is going great guns in tourism and we are going backwards. It is simply not good enough.