Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence Materiel) (18:13): I would like to thank members for their contributions to the debate on the Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill 2012. The bill amends the Passenger Movement Charge Act 1978 to increase the rate of the passenger movement charge by $8 to $55 per passenger. This will take effect from 1 July.
This week a House committee and a Senate committee tabled reports on the bill. Both recommended that the bill be passed. The House committee report raised a number of concerns that industry had raised, including indexation and regional tourism. The government has considered the report and decided to make two changes: (1) an amendment that I will be moving in committee to remove indexation and (2) the creation of a Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund. This will fund tourism development projects in regional Australia through grants of up to $100,000. This is, of course, on top of the funding allocated to a new Asia Marketing Fund. It is a very important initiative and we remain committed to it. There is good reason for that: in less than a decade it is estimated that there will be 100 million outbound travellers per annum from China alone. This fund will help promote Australia as a touring and business destination in this important and growing market. It has been endorsed by Tourism Australia Chairman and former Qantas CEO, Geoff Dixon, who said:
With this new dedicated fund, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to further drive both existing campaign activity and new marketing efforts across our fastest growing and most valuable inbound visitor markets.
There has been a bipartisan approach on this issue. We have both supported the passenger movement charge and we have both increased it in the past. John Howard introduced its predecessor, the departure tax, in 1978 and presided over the biggest ever increase to the passenger movement charge of 27 per cent in 2001. The difference between the major parties is that Labor is investing some of it in the Australian tourism industry; the Liberal Party never did. I commend the bill to the House.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.