Michael Danby MHR

Tel: (03) 9534 8126
Fax: (03) 9534 1575

117 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda VIC 3182

PO Box 2086
St Kilda West 3182

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (5.55 p.m.) —
Responding to a question today on the effects of the Virgin Blue-Corrigan deal and its anticipated benefits for Australian tourism, the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Joe Hockey, exposed—perhaps unwittingly—the government's confusion on the issue of our nation's international image. The member for North Sydney, Minister Hockey, suggested that more people would now be able to see Australia's famous destinations such as the Whitsunday Passage and the Great Barrier Reef.

Our avuncular minister may have his heart in the right place when it comes to promoting Australia. Unfortunately, his enthusiastic actions to promote Australia have been undermined by earlier activities of his colleague the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. The minister for immigration in the previous parliament spent several millions of dollars of taxpayers' money on an extraordinary video titled Illegal travel: it's not worth the risk. This is truly extraordinary—

The SPEAKER —I do believe that was brought to my attention before today, member for Melbourne Ports.

Mr DANBY —It has, Mr Speaker. You were kind enough to warn me about drawing it to the minister's attention. We all remember how Chairman Mao used to scrub out the images of Lin Biao in official Chinese propaganda after Lin Bao's passing, and how Joe Stalin used to rub out the pictures of Leon Trotsky from the great Soviet encyclopedia. I am convinced that this government tries to pretend that this video no longer exists.

This is an extraordinary video. When I was a very young and green member of this House I went to the soiree that the minister for immigration held in the Great Hall where they were handing out these videos by the hundreds. They spent several million dollars trying to explain to people that, if you came to Australia, you would be eaten by sharks or crocodiles and, if you were not, you would be consumed in a bushfire. It has an extraordinary fake picture on the front, too, of slums that you would see when you arrived in Australia. They are actually—I hate to say it—in another foreign city, in Singapore. They are not in Australia.

The explanation to me by the minister for immigration was that this extraordinary video, whose existence they are very ashamed of, was going to be shown on Afghan and Iraqi television. I thought this was a very curious idea and tried to explain to senior immigration officials that, as far as I understood, Iraqi television was wall-to-wall Saddam Hussein, and that I did not think they would be able to get their video shown on Baghdad television. Also, they had no budget at all for promoting it anywhere overseas in such a way that it would be paid for. They just paid several million dollars to produce it and, as far as I know, it never made it to any television station in Iraq or Afghanistan. This `promotional' video produced by the minister is now virtually unavailable. It casts Australia as a wilderness and a backwater surrounded by crocodiles and sharks.

My colleague the member for Calwell, who is a new member of this House, said that government ministers appear to be at loggerheads about how it is promoting the image of our country around the world. The Minister for Small Business and Tourism is happy with deals between Mr Corrigan and Virgin Blue, and we all want more tourists to come to Australia, and yet we have this video. I hope the minister for immigration has withdrawn it from all our posts all over the world. It certainly has never, as far as I know, made it onto Afghan or Iraqi TV. I had to disillusion some of the Immigration officials by telling them too that, during the period of the Taliban, there was no TV in Afghanistan, and they certainly would not show videos trying to convince their citizens not to flee to better places such as Australia.

Ms Vamvakinou, who is the member for Calwell, said the actions of the minister for tourism and the minister for immigration sent out contradictory messages about our country. She also said that the minister for tourism is doing his job in promoting the natural beauty of our country while the minister for immigration prefers to produce videos promoting the idea that visitors will face imminent death if they come to this country. The government has got to get its messages right. The whole policy on asylum seekers and the way that has portrayed Australia all around the world have done nothing to promote Australian tourism.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 6 p.m., the debate is interrupted.


Authorised by Michael Danby 117 Fitzroy Street St Kilda VIC 3182