By Denis Bright
Denis Bright invites discussion on the social market foundations of Australia’s successful tourist sector. Do the policy structures which keep this sector going so well have implications for ailing sections of the wider economy in the post-resources boom period?
The current wayward trends in opinion polling in both Queensland and WA show that the community wants more in the way of smooth delivery from all tiers of government. Without this smooth delivery, there are new social tensions and profound alienation from mainstream political processes.
With few exceptions, members of the federal parliamentary LNP are locked into old style solutions based on a profound reverence for The Miracle of the Market as embraced by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in bygone times. Even President Trump has regressed back to America First as his current signature tune which is an even less sustainable option.
When GST entitlements to the states and territories are excluded in a growing national economy, other payments to the states and territories are in sharp decline:
Australian Budget 2016-17 Budget Paper No.3
The highly successful Australia tourist sector shows how alternatives to market capitalism are operating to break through this apparent impasse, through a high level of productive government involvement. This is a model which could be applied in other important sectors such as housing, environmental management and infrastructure delivery under more progressive national, state and local governments.
As self-proclaimed lovers of Australian traditions, federal LNP leaders should be the first to revisit the social market model which was the foundation of prosperity during the federation era before 1914.
The progressive social market structures of the Australian settlement drew bipartisanship from a commitment to full employment within fair industrial awards and a proactive role for government in early phases of national pension schemes.
A century later bipartisanship continues over some commitments to trade and investment liberalization but the federal LNP is still not ready to accept an Indo-Pacific alternative to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The federal LNP fosters fears of refugees and asylum seekers as a substitute for a more inclusive and socially just society which was the hallmark of the Australian settlement.
Instead the electorate is assured that wealth will trickle down from the tables of financial and social elites to homeless people who choose park benches in prestigious inner city postcodes.
In a globalized era, mechanized rural, mining and manufacturing sectors are struggling to maintain the living standards of more than 75 per cent of the workforce in one of the service sectors of the economy.
The tourism sector is one of the most vibrant components of the service sector. Its successes might have some lessons for the wider economy in demonstrating the value of progressive government involvement on behalf of the majority of Australians who are working in the service sector.
1 Highlighting Tourism in the National Economy
Since the publication of last year’s Info graphics, the Australian tourist industry has continued to develop and diversify. Australia welcomed 8.26 million international visitors in 2016, after posting an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year, to achieve another record year for tourism.
“The record results confirm the strength of Australia’s tourism industry and desirability of our tourism offering internationally,” Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan said.
All this has been steered with a minimum amount of federal government funding for Tourism Australia, Tourism Research Australia and the Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure Programme (TDDI) within Austrade.
Tourism Australia was projected to receive $156.8 million in 2016-17, including $$2.5 million for the working holiday maker campaign and $14 million for the Asian Marketing Fund.
Remarkably, Tourism Australia generated an additional $70 million from its own initiated partnership revenue. This includes strategic partnerships with airlines to facilitate access to regional centres and support for the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE).
With the current federal budget deficit still in the $35-40 billion range, it could be a bipartisan commitment to allow federal, state, regional and local tourist networks to generate more of such income for co-ordinating promotional agencies.
Social market strategies have been built into existing tourist promotion and event strategies at state, territory, regional and local levels. Examples are provided of the possibilities for Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ).
2 Expanding Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ)
TEQ is a statutory body of the Queensland Government to steer tourism and major events for both local and overseas visitors. This is a major niche in the Queensland economy with a big focus on all regional districts where some parliamentary representatives are seeking a greater share of the state budget to cover unemployment and environmental problems generated by coal seam gas projects and questionable developments near waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.
TEQ parallels Tourism Australia’s commitment to industry partnerships to assist with funding. The positive impact of tourism is a cornerstone of regional employment as shown by the projections in the TEQ’s Strategic Plan for 2020.
Projected turnover generated from tourism is expected to exceed $1 billion in nine Queensland regions if the estimates from the Fraser Coast and Bundaberg are combined because of their proximity.
In a tight 2016-17 state budget, Queensland made a commitment to $400 million in funding over four years for TEQ to overcome cut-backs under the previous LNP government.
As with the Tourism Australia, TEQ would benefit from additional involvement in public sector business investment funds to support government projects and public-private partnerships to advance tourism in Queensland.
TEQ could operate an innovative booking service for road rail bus connections for long distance travel, travel insurance, major musical or cultural events, accommodation bookings and tours. Consultancy services could be operated to support sustainable tourist ventures.
Commercialising TEQ could replace the need for some government spending by new commercial endeavours from commissions collected from online booking and ticketing as shown by the booking system used by the Spanish railways.
This overseas funding arrangement is dwarfed by the Queensland Government’s commitment to the Queen’s Wharf Project in Inner Brisbane:
On Monday 16 November 2015 the Queensland Government reached contractual close on the $3 billion Queen’s Wharf Brisbane Integrated Resort Development. Contractual close represents a key aspect of the final stage of the procurement process, which was successfully delivered by the Department of State Development.
The Destination Brisbane Consortium—The Star Entertainment Group (formerly Echo Entertainment Group), Far East Consortium (Australia) and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises—is now the contractor responsible for delivering the world-class tourism, leisure and entertainment precinct in the heart of the Brisbane CBD.
The Queensland Government in partnership with the Destination Brisbane Consortium will deliver economic growth for Queensland with the creation of more than 2000 jobs during peak construction and 8000 jobs when the Integrated Resort Development is operational in around 2022.
The revitalised precinct will provide improved facilities for everyday use and public events, showcasing Brisbane to locals, interstate and international visitors.
The electorate is clearly looking for such new social market solutions to a perceived failure of governments to deliver services because of inadequate funding from the current federal LNP.
New taxes and charges are definitely unpopular but social market solutions should be well received as the outcomes are highly transparent and accountable.
The social market concept is a return to some aspects of pragmatic democratic socialism that can be funded by commercial investment in business investment funds within the public sector at all levels of government in a globalized era.
If this sounds like a way of recreating viable enterprises like the Commonwealth Bank in the tradition of the people’s bank or Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL), let’s consider it more carefully as an option for the future in the proposed banking royal commission. How many federal LNP members will break ranks to make this possible?
Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.
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