Senator Simon Birmingham has attacked the Rudd Labor Government for cutting funds to a key arm of Tourism Australia and says the effects are already being felt.
Tourism Australia has confirmed, through Senate Estimates, that the budget for Business Events Australia was cut by more than $600,000 – more than 10 per cent – from $5.737 million to just $5.12 million for 2008-09.
Business Events Australia is a specialist team within Tourism Australia promoting Australia as a destination for business events such as corporate meetings, conferences, conventions, exhibitions and incentive programs.
“Tourism Australia recognises the business sector as a high yield part of the market and has a target of increasing to 200,000 the number of business conference travelers visiting Australia annually,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Yet the most recent figures show a 4 per cent year-on-year fall in convention or conference arrivals, with just 177,400 for the 12 months to March 2009.
“The Rudd Government should not be surprised at this decline in business arrivals, given the cuts it has made to its key agency in Business Events Australia.
“The $600,000 cut in spending on the business events sector is a significant further blow on top of the pressures being faced due to the economic downturn and now concerns over swine flu.
“Disturbingly, tourism officials at Estimates were unable to guarantee 2009-10 funding would even be maintained at this lower level, signalling the possibility of further cuts.
“The slashing of more than 10 per cent of funding to Business Events Australia shows these cuts are having a real impact on Tourism Australia’s ability to deliver for Australia’s critically important tourism industry.
“These cuts come on top of the halving of funding for the Australian Tourism Development Program (ATDP) and increased slugs on tourists through increases in Passenger Movement Charge and visa fees.

“The Rudd Government has so far appeared hell bent on doing everything it can to cripple this crucial and iconic Australian industry, and must stand condemned for making it pay the price for Labor’s massive deficits and mounting debt.”