Saturday 30 October 2010

Saturday SoapBlog: Councillor Pyne - Where I sit on a tourism levy

Cairns Regional Councillor Rob Pyne reckons Mayor Val is being a bit ambiguous in her push for a new rate to support the tourism industry. He would like every councillor to say were they stand on the issue.

Pyne argues that proposition of a new universal levy is that we all benefit from tourism, however says this is not supported by the facts.

There has been debate around the introduction of a Tourism Levy in Cairns for many years, and I am sure that it will remain a subject of heated debate many years from now.

However, the structure of Cairns Regional Council is such that a Tourism Levy will never become a reality – unless six Councillors are prepared to vote in favour of it. In light of this, it is important all councillors let the community know exactly what their position is, which is what I am doing now.

There are two models of tourism levy that I have seen. One would involve a universal charge to go on every rate notice. This charge is imposed at a flat rate (as opposed to a progressive scale). The other model involved charging only Commercial ratepayers with a levy. I am opposed to both models, and I am happy to explain why.

Equity: The concept of a universal levy is based on the proposition that everyone in Cairns benefits from Tourism, so everyone should contribute. This argument is not supported by the facts.

Yes, Cairns does benefit from tourism and it is crucial to our economic prosperity. However, that should not allow proponents of a levy to ‘stretch the truth’ to the extent they do. How does a self-funded retiree who is living in White Rock benefit from tourism?

What about the police officer living in Redlynch, or a schoolteacher in Babinda? It is a long draw of the bow to link these folks with tourism.

Some advocates of a levy have countered this by suggesting the levy only be charged on businesses in the region. One can see the logic here, but such a suggestion still fails the equity test. What about a business in Gordonvale or Mossman that sells fertilizer to cane farmers in the area? How is it fair for him to pay a tourism levy when his business income is generated from the sale of fertilizer? The only link I can make is that he may recommend horse manure, which is something we are well and truly used to hearing from politicians advocating a levy!

Economic Impact: A tourism levy is inconsistent with what should be the number one objective of our economic policy…. diversification! No doubt the tourism sector would benefit hugely from a levy. But where does that leave us at the next economic downturn when people decide to cut their discretionary spending, or when we have our next serious influenza pandemic? Once the planes stop.. we are stuffed again!

It is time to get behind diversification, in reality and not just in rhetoric. Projects such as the Tropical Innovation Awards are a fantastic example of the sort thing we should be supporting. A Business and Industry Park in South Cairns is another idea that I feel deserves serious consideration from all levels of government.

Please do not take my comments to infer that the tourism sector should not be supported. Council already provides funding to Tropical Tourism North Queensland (TTNQ) and rightly so. They are the appropriate body to lobby and suggest policy for the sector. They must be properly funded, but not from a levy, rather from grants, paid on performance and with the State and Commonwealth Government’s paying their fair share!

If I could get one message across in this piece, it is the manner in which I feel Council can best support tourism – that is by a more effective level of service delivery in traditional areas of service – that is the Three R’s and the Two D’s. Rates, roads and rubbish and drains and dogs (or animal control).

Who wants to visit a dirty looking city, where the parks and drains are overgrown and footpaths are cracked or covered in chewing gum? Any Council that has an immaculate looking city and surrounds will sell itself! We could do much better in this area and we should. If we do this, in a modern age of information technology and the Internet, the word will spread like wildfire. The fantastic aspect of such an approach is that residents, as well as tourists flocking to our city will both benefit from this approach. Why other Councillors and some senior staff cannot grasp the logic of this approach is something I continue to be bewildered by.

One thing I will never support, is a form of ‘corporate welfare’ that would take money from working families in the suburbs of this city and deliver it to a smaller group engaged in a specific industry.

Not when support for that industry can be provided in other ways.


Chris Rollason said...

Cr Pyne can you disclose the councillor/councillors that were in favour of this proposal hike or would that be against councillor codes of conduct??? That way Cairns could show them that they will be looking for new jobs when it comes to local election time.

Colin Riddell said...

Good question chris I will ask my councillor if you know who it is ,because I never see or hear from them . I think it is leigh or raj or paul or nancy not real sure.

Unknown said...

Chris Forsberg says:-

BRAVO Councillor Rob Pyne - levying
the entire rate-payer base to furnish further funding to the TTNQ
is totally inappropriate...

Not least because the TTNQ itself is part of the problem, given it's
obsessive focus on promoting
international visitors and hence
it's woeful neglect of the domestic

Granted, TTNQ has done everything
that could be done to generate
tourist traffic from overseas
markets. In that sector, you
would have to give them 'ten outta
ten'....they have hit-up every
Asian airline, and ventured from Vegas to Bejing in a succession
of promotional jaunts and junkets.

But have they ever mounted a promo in Mount Isa - or Moranbah - or
Rockhampton ? As does the Townsville tourist promotions mob.

No - TTNQ folk 'wouldn't be seen dead' in Moranbah or Mount Isa -
not when they can junket to Vegas,
Munich or Manchester...

With the Oz dollar almost at parity
with the Yankee buck - and with
Americans collectively suffering
'fear of flying' due to what might
be called 9/11 Syndrome - it will
take more than a dose of Oprah-mania to revive the U.S. market.

And the Euro is declining as the
Oz dollar appreciates - reducing
Oz-appeal to tourists from
continental Europe. True, China
has enormous potential - and the
TTNQ have scored with Cathay Pacific, which is increasing flights in to Cairns.

But overseas travel is relatively
new to Chinese citizens - those who
have become suddenly wealthy (and
there are millions of them) will
surely opt for the globally most-
famous destinations first - Venice,
Paris, Los Angeles etc.

TTNQ itself requires a measure of
reform before any further funding
is lavished their way - and, even
if such reform took place, under
NO circumstances should every rate-
payer in the region be 'levied' -
precisely for the reasons advanced
by Councillor Pyne.

chris forsberg bayview heights

Leigh Dall'Osto said...

Rob is absolutely correct in his assertion that a tourism levy just leads us down the same path as before and stifles diversification. If we have learnt anything at all, it's that Cairns cannot survive on Tourism alone.

Tourism doesn't build houses, grow our food or support our Education and jobs. It is required for us to function as a city, but is not who the majority of us are.

We have bodies that are founded to boost and market tourism to domestic and international travellers. They are funded well, although could probably work better if they combined their efforts in their common goal.

For the bulk of locals, especially those with families, the tourist traps are much too expensive for us to venture into, so we don't.

We need Governments to move regional offices to Cairns. We have the potential to be the ECO hub of Australia (both in manufacturing and design). We have brilliant innovators who we aren't supporting. Also, we need to look closely at encouraging our Indigenous population to provide immersion tours, similar to those that people all over the world flock to India for, where they are guided spiritually and practically, through the lives of the traditional owners of our land.

Two minutes, several suggestions. Maybe they aren't all practical or possible. However, it's time to look at all options for our future development as a major regional city so that we can prevent the massive negative effects of global financial dramas in the future. It would be beyond foolish to assume it will never happen again.

Oh, and Colin, trust me, if I was your Councillor, you would be well aware of it.

Rob Pyne said...

[to Chris Rollason] They are nearly all against now ... but that was not the case 18 months ago! Funny how people change the closer we get to an election! Discussions were in a workshop and it never reached a formal vote, so I am not at liberty to speak on behalf of the others ... but for myself I WILL NOT SUPPORT such a levy!

Russ Parker said...

This entire modern phenomena of adding small (and not so small) levies onto rates every time some boffin has a wonderful new idea has just got to cease. It's no wonder rates are so damn expensive. Fire levy; ambulance levy; cleaner seas levy; now a proposed tourism levy. Where does it all end?

As far as I am concerned, local government needs to get back to it's core business instead of trying to prop up every community group, sporting body and industry association. It's not rocket science - if it won't stand up on it's own then cut it loose!

This spend, spend, spend mentality has come about as a result of years of economic good times, however it's now time to rein it in and start to do things a hell of a lot smarter.

I sincerely doubt that those behind this proposal have any idea of just how tough the average ratepayer is doing it out there. We need to let them know that the fiscal belt has just about tightened to it's absolute limit and that any additional levy, no matter how small, will most definitely not be tolerated.

There - I feel much better now!



T. Asquith said...

Can't think of another issue to raise more ratepayer ire than the introduction of a tourism levy. If the industry is so dependant on funding, let the industry/government/council raise it at source: A bed tax (many overseas tourist destinations have such a tax).
Our civic leaders should note well: If the Mayor or (my) divisional Councillor vote to impose a levy, my vote goes elsewhere - regardless of any other issue/s.

Unknown said...

Russ - a pity a few more battlers didn't vote Liberal at the last federal election.

Then the let's waste someone else's money mentality that's installed in the socialist/green/labor/trade union would have been history.

Oh well, two more years to go before Kev comes back and rescues Cairns from the slow death that is occurring.

Have you heard one word from our State Labor lot, or our Labor mayor about the love affair Anna's got with Townsville???

No - of course not. Wimps!!!

Paul Drabble said...

Rob Pyne leads the way again in putting forward what the people are thinking..TTNQ should be like any other business in a downturn & be looking at better effiecency's ratrher than a cap in handout approach.
We need as a society to stop our leaders taking the easy solution which for the past 2 decades has been "Cure BY TAXATION". areas under this false cure are road trauma, smoking, alcohoism. The tax burden on all in society increases but the delivery of services decrease. Seem's the money just goes into the governmental black whole of beauracratic self indulgence.

Warren Entsch said...

Kevin Turd is a big fat stinky turd.
Aagghh feel better now that I got that one out.

portmultimedia said...

A tourism levy worked in the former Douglas Shire as a Council levy on only commercially rated accommodation houses. The levy was over 'accommodation rooms' and generated significant income for Local Tourism Directly in Douglas. I believe it is still being collected (please check) by the CRC on behalf of the PDDT who then use it for Promos and advertising. It is not Corporate Welfare if the money is raised by the groups who directly benefit... its more of a compulsory self-help group for an industry that is by in large competing AGAINST each other to the detriment of themselves.