Interview with Nicole Graham on regional ABC 639 North West (South Australia)

Topics: Tourism Australia’s new working holidaymakers campaign; minimum wage; student climate change rally.

Transcript, E&OE

14 March 2019

Narelle Graham: South Australia is making a pitch to bring French, German and UK students for a working holiday on the Neptune Islands in the Spencer Gulf, this is part of a seven point five million dollar tourism strategy that was launched today, let’s talk to Senator Simon Birmingham about that, he is the Minister for Tourism. Hello Senator.

Simon Birmingham: Hey Narelle good to be with you again.

Narelle Graham: Is that you Chris Hemsworth?

Simon Birmingham: You have to stop doing this to me, I’ll get a complex.

Narelle Graham: He eludes me again.

Simon Birmingham: Alas.

Narelle Graham: What can you tell me that this campaign.

Simon Birmingham: So working holidaymakers are really important to the way our tourism system works in Australia for two reasons. One is of course we know that lots of young people come out to Australia as a bit of a rite of passage and they travel around the country and they spend every cent that they earn, they spend savings they’ve brought with them, they often spend some of mum and dad’s money on the way through as well. But as well as that investment in the tourism sector they make, they often also work sometimes in the tourism sector or in other seasonal industries particularly in our agricultural sector with fruit picking, and helping with other crops and seasonal work. So it’s a really important component and we want to make sure that we maintain the 300,000 plus working holiday makers who currently come to Australia and ideally, grow it a little bit because it’s seen a bit of a downturn in some of those traditional European markets.

Narelle Graham: That is Senator Simon Birmingham. He is the Minister for Tourism for Australia. Also what kind of work with the students from Germany France and the UK do on the Neptune Islands? Shark cage diving?

Simon Birmingham: Well of course, you know you highlight some of the unusual places that people can go and I know one of the banner ads that I’ve seen as part of this campaign that Tourism Australia is kicking off now, has an image of a couple of a couple of young people with their surfboards in hand wandering along and (indistinct) start the day in the boardroom. So it’s all about trying to have a bit of fun entice of course people to come for the exciting bits. Some people for the experience of fruit picking or working in a restaurant or doing any of the types of jobs you often expect working holidaymakers to do while they’re here. But mostly coming to see amazing sites like Neptune Island or so of course get around right into the outback and what we do know with working holiday makers is they get into regional Australia at a much higher rate than do traditional tourists.

Narelle Graham: Okay so you are not necessarily saying that they will work on the Neptune Islands, that’s sort of a hook?

Simon Birmingham: That is right.

Narelle Graham: Come and see this unusual.

Simon Birmingham: Yeah yeah.

Narelle Graham: Because that was my first thinking on it was there yeah we are going to have all these backpackers for Neptune Island and I wondered what they were going to be doing there. So this is to draw in more backpackers, estimated economic contribution of 55 million dollars a year. What are you hoping to build that to?

Simon Birmingham: That’s the current spend and South Australia attracts around 10 per cent of all working holiday makers spend some time through SA. So I think there’s two parts to that, we want to grow the national number of working holidaymakers but as a South Australian Senator as well and I know that is a view shared by the Premier and the state government, who really want to lift the state’s share of working holiday makers as well, but having 10 per cent spend time in the state is not a huge proportion relative to what we could get, there’s more than 300000 visitors, working holiday makers in Australia and only 29,000 of them make their way to SA. So I think we can really work hard to try to not just grow the total numbers as national minister I want to do but also make sure that SA is getting a bigger share in the future.

Narelle Graham: Senator a couple of other quick fire questions on other topics that are making the news today and one of them is, we were just discussing it, the minimum wage, what’s the government’s stance on raising the minimum wage?

Simon Birmingham: Well our view is we have an independent umpire, it’s the Fair Work Commission. Last year they handed down a rise in the minimum wage that was the highest rate of growth in more than eight years. So it demonstrated responsiveness to some of the arguments put to the Fair Work Commission. The increase in the last couple of years have been well above inflation rates and we think the right place to thrash out these arguments is at the Fair Work Commission, the independent umpire, and to let the various parties you just had arguing on air, present the evidence to the Commission and the Commission can then weigh what is an ambit claim versus what is well based evidence.

Narelle Graham: Certainly, the Federal Opposition is weighing into that debate?

Simon Birmingham: Well there is a lot of sort of gesturing happening from Bill Shorten and the Federal Opposition at present. There is virtue signalling left right and center. But I haven’t actually heard them say how much they think it should go up by. They talk about the fact we should have a living wage but they’ve refused to define what the living wage is. Yesterday on 891 Mornings in Adelaide I was hearing David Bevan repeatedly asking Mark Butler whether or not the opposition would change the Fair Work Act and he wouldn’t actually give a straight answer to that. So from all I can see and there’s a lot of virtue signalling, a lot of trying to stir up a class warfare argument between business and the workers coming from Labor, but nothing actually concrete and I think it’s pretty reckless and irresponsible. You know what we’ve tried to do as a government is grow the economy, create more jobs, we’ve generated one point to seven million jobs additional, since we’ve been in office. And what that does is of course it puts pressure on the labour market, the tighter the labour market gets, the more businesses look for productivity, the more they have to compete for skilled workers, the more of course that pushes wages up.

Narelle Graham: Senator tomorrow we have thousands of children taking off from school because they want to see real action on climate change so they’ll be striking, will your kids be taking part in that?

Simon Birmingham: My kids are probably a little bit little to be making that decision, even if they were inclined to do so. Now I guess as a parent I would respect that decision but my position as a parent would probably be the same as my public position. Which is really to say that kids are welcome to protest and have free speech just like the rest of us and I respect that. There are two things I’d say though, one is there’s no need to be striking from school to do it. The organisers of this rally would be showing much more responsibility to do it on a weekend, in school holidays, at any other time rather than taking kids out of the classroom. I heard the education minister yesterday saying just how crowded the curriculum is and the importance of kids being there. The other thing I’d say though it is to make sure that your fully informed. Australia, in terms of our role has met and exceeded each of the emissions reduction targets that we have set as a nation so far. We did that for the first Kyoto round, we’ve done that for the second Kyoto round in terms of the 2020 targets. We will meet and exceed those on last estimates by around 300 million tonnes, I think if my recollection is correct and I’m quite confident that we’ll meet and exceed the targets we set for 2030, which is to reduce again by another 26 per cent our emissions, based on 2005 levels.

Narelle Graham: Thank you very much Senator Simon Birmingham there the minister for Tourism.