TRANSCRIPT – THE HON. SENATOR RICHARD COLBECK TO EXHIBITION & EVENT ASSOCIATION LEADERS FORUM DINNER

By Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia, 9 June, 2016


9 June 2016

 

TRANSCRIPT – HON. SENATOR RICHARD COLBECK, MINISTER FOR TOURISM AND INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION ADDRESS TO EXHIBITION & EVENT ASSOCIATION LEADERS FORUM DINNER, MELBOURNE

 

It’s a real pleasure to be here and so thank you for your extremely warm welcome, I very much appreciate it and I do mean it – it is good to be out talking to you tonight and listening to the details of what you’ve got to say about your sector and the opportunity to talk to you about where we sit from a government perspective, all things permitting after the 2nd of July.

 

I do look forward to the opportunity to continue in this role because I have to say I am very much enjoying it and Matt, most of my speech notes are pretty worthless now after your presentation.

 

Thank you to those who have given me the stats on the industry because the worst thing, I think, that someone in my job can do is to come and tell you all about yourselves, because I think that’s what you already should know.

 

But just a couple of observations, I suppose. It’s really pleasing to hear that you are feeling a stronger level of engagement from government and Brian, very pleasing to hear the fact that you’ve come home and noticed a change in attitude. I think that’s an important observation but it also reflects, I think, a growing recognition of the events sector more broadly in the visitor economy.

 

We are all looking to see what we can do to grow the Australian economy, that’s one of the things that we as a government are looking to achieve and that’s what sits behind that oft-repeated phrase ‘jobs and growth’. We’re looking to the sectors of the economy that are going to promote that and so when you look at those sectors of the economy that have been recognised as, what we’re calling now, super growth sectors, the visitor economy is one of those, along with the other part of my portfolio in international education – both, effectively, parts of the visitor economy. But tourism, international education and events more broadly are recognised as some of those five key super growth sectors.

 

So what do we do as a government to make sure that those sectors that are projected to grow; the visitor economy and tourism are projected to grow at 4.1 per cent per annum over the next decade, what do we do to make sure that that’s exactly what happens? What are the settings in the economy that actually promote that – don’t inhibit it – but drive it?

 

We quite correctly talk about visas and there are plenty of people across the visitor economy who will talk to us about visas, and you’re right it is an issue of common interest. If you look at what’s happening internationally at the moment there are a number of countries who are looking at what they are doing with their visa settings because they know that when people are making a decision to travel somewhere how easy it is to get a visa and the process via which you have to go through to get a visa is one of those decision points. If it’s too hard it can be “well, I’ll go somewhere else” and we don’t want that to occur.

 

So we’ve done quite a few things over recent times in that space, in particular. We’re working to develop a ten year multi-visit visa for China. We are working to have the application for the process for that to be online and for the first time in that really important market we’re looking to enable it to be filled out in Mandarin.

 

Just before Christmas we announced a three year multi entry visa for Indonesia. I ran into a group of agents from Indonesia about four weeks later in Adelaide at one of Tourism Australia’s events and they all rushed over to me and said we’re really happy about this new three year multi-entry visa out of Indonesia and our bosses have told us to double business to Australia. We send one million visitors to Indonesia on an annual basis and they send about 130,000 to 140,000 to us. If we can double that it’s important, but it also opens up opportunity.

 

I think the way that we have positioned the visitor economy within our structure of government is also something that’s facilitated a more positive result for industry. The fact that Tourism Australia and tourism now sit within the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio is really quite a positive one, and particularly its interaction through Austrade.

 

Austrade have very much a commercial focus in the way that they operate as compared with other parts of government. That’s one of the really good things about dealing with people in Austrade, they have a commercial focus and they understand commerce because most of them come from there.

 

From my perspective, and from the government’s perspective, the visitor economy is not just about getting there. It’s about so much more than that and it’s about all of the other things that this fantastic country has to offer.

 

Jo, your comments really do provide food for thought. I think the challenge there for us all is, and given that you’re into data and I’m a big fan of good utilisation of data and information to drive good decision making, what is it about this country, this destination that can drive change and build more growth in the events sector in this country? I think that we’ve got plenty to offer and I look forward to having the conversation to see how we can continue to drive that.

 

There are so many more things I think we can do and, I suppose to a certain extent, as a government we’ve actually pinched that idea. Because if you look at the work that Andrew Robb has done in promoting business to business links and growth and trade over the last three years, some of the really great successes have come out of his business missions.

 

So his Australia Business Weeks, of which we’ve now had two in China, and only six or so weeks ago, I think it was, we had over 1,000 people from 750 organisations in China talking business. The government was there with businesses and as Minsters having the opportunity to have interaction directly with our ministerial counterparts and businesses being able to talk to businesses over there. But knowing we were side by side, I can tell you, has a huge impact and it makes the conversations so much easier.

 

In Indonesia for Australia Business Week last November we had 460, I think it was, people there for Australia Business Week in Indonesia and they sat up and took notice. I sat down with my ministerial counterparts during that week we were getting answers to questions that we couldn’t get before because they noticed the fact we were taking the relationship seriously and it had an impact.

 

Similarly, in India in January last year – my first opportunity to see one of those forums – we rocked up there, again with over 400, and I’ll never forget Andrew Robb recounting his discussion with his ministerial counterpart from the UK who was boasting to him over dinner that they had such a big delegation that they were really taking the UK-India relationship seriously, they had brought 100 businesses with them. I was talking to Andrew’s adviser and he said surely this bloke’s not going to be silly enough to ask Andrew how many we’ve got, but he was and Andrew said well it’s summer, the cricket’s on and it’s hard to get people to come out, we’ve only got 470 – and the table went really quiet.

 

The work that Andrew did and the development of the Australia Business Weeks in those key markets and, again, the same thing in the United States in February and I was in the Middle East in January, really working to build the relationships government to government and business to business through presence and it works.

 

So again, as you’ve said here tonight, those events that occur – they do a number of things. Obviously, as you’ve indicated, they facilitate business and business growth, relationships and trade and that is very important to us, and that’s why we’re focussed so heavily and so strongly on negotiating free trade agreements.

 

The point that Prime Minister Turnbull made when we were in China quoting Deng Xiaoping and he said an open economy is a strong one. I think if you look around the world globally ours is one of the best examples of that. Not everybody necessarily always realises it but the competition drives innovation and drives productivity growth and it drives strength in the economy and it keeps our businesses sharp.

 

That’s why we focus on that and that’s why we continue to work on free trade agreements with so many other countries, because we know that is also what provides opportunities for our businesses in Australia to trade into those markets, which is really important.

 

We’re a small economy, relatively, and if businesses here want to rely just on the Australian market that is going to be their market constraint – that is going to be their growth constraint. But if they can grow into those other markets that is the opportunity for strength and growth in the Australian economy.

 

One of the things that this sector does have in spades is skills and I see a real opportunity around the development and the utilisation, and the export, of those skills which, putting the other part of my portfolio hat on, is international education. The exportation of those skills is also something that we can benefit from.

 

So significant opportunity, I think, to continue to grow this sector and I know that some of you would have heard what my colleague in the portfolio, Steve Ciobo, said at TTF the other day about one of your asks – keep an eye on things, keep an eye on things, I think that’s worth doing.

 

We are very, very keen to continue to engage with the events sector but the visitor economy more broadly and I have to say I’ve very much enjoyed the time since September in this portfolio and my very, very strong ambition is that time is considerably extended.

 

So thanks for the opportunity to be here tonight and really, thank you for the warm welcome.

 

[ends]

Source: Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia