Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ministerial mumblings at MEA conference

This year I attended my 10th Meetings & Events Industry conference. A number of those conferences have been attended by Federal Tourism ministers.

Jackie Kelly won the seat of Lindsay from Labor in 1996 and was rewarded by John Howard with the Sport and Tourism portfolio. Kelly had represented Australia in rowing and is a keen sports person, however she had little to contribute to Tourism and even less to Business Tourism. This lack of knowledge (and interest) was very evident in a Q & A session at the 1998 Melbourne MIAA conference.

Following the 2001 election Kelly was relegated to the role of Parliamentary Secretary and was replaced by Joe Hockey.

Hockey attended the 2002 conference in Hamilton Island and to his credit he listened to senior figures in the industry. Mind you he didn’t have much option – he was stuck on the island for a few days and Elizabeth Rich spearheaded the dialog. The result of this lobbying was Australia’s first Tourism White Paper, defining a new direction model and significant government funding for the country's $19 billion travel industry.

Hockey also made a memorable visit to the 2004 conference.

Following the 2004 election Fran Bailey was made Minister for Small Business and Tourism.

Conference delegates were treated to a nondescript video message from the minister at the Perth and Gold Coast conferences.

But this year in Hobart the minister appeared in person to deliver a speech that was considerably underwhelming. The speech was excessively long, was big on data and even bigger on rhetoric. It was a one size fits all speech that did not address the audience in front of her and sounded like it had been delivered many times before. In fact one of the technicians at the event told me that he had heard it almost word for word at tourism conference in the same venue some weeks earlier.

Business Tourism was dealt with by the minister as data – figures we have head many times before.

And to paraphrase – “and when international delegates have finished their conference they can visit such wonderful tourism destinations as the Yarra Valley (in the minister’s electorate) or Cairns and the Barrier Reef or the Northern Territory or…” well you get the picture.

However not a mention of Tasmania! Don’t her minders tell her where she is?

Thankfully there is an election before the next conference so we can be assured that we will have a new minister to invite to the Alice Springs conference.