A group of Whitsunday tourism operators is lobbying the Federal Government for the introduction of domestic-travel tax deduction to reinvigorate local North Queensland communities.
The proposal is for $2000 in domestic travel to be a tax deduction for every tax payer, every year, similar to the $1500 School Expenses tax deduction.
Qualifying expenses would be up to the above amount on any accommodation spent in Australia only. This includes motels, hotels, campgrounds, charter boats, backpacker resorts and camper vans. A tax payer retains copy of invoices to make the claim.
Supporting the proposal are yacht-charter operators Sunsail, Charter Yachts Australia, Whitsunday Escape, Cumberland Charter Yachts, Queensland Yacht Charters and Whitsunday Rent a Yacht.
The group said the cost to the Australian taxpayers is not significant, with less money required than the funding given to the motor vehicle industry, where most of the money goes to overseas manufacturers.
It claims domestic tourism is in “meltdown”, particularly in regional areas outside of the cities, where small communities are reliant on the tourism industry. Domestic tourism in Australia it said has steadily declined, while outbound visitor numbers have achieved spectacular growth.
The Federal Liberal member for Dawson, George Christensen is backing the proposal. A Mackay local, Christensen says the plan would go a long way to helping North Queensland’s tourism industry, which has been ravaged by floods, cyclones and the high Australian dollar.
Christensen took the proposal to Federal Parliament in May.
With the carbon tax now in place, he said the struggling tourism industry needed a helping hand.
"The tourism industry is struggling around the country," said Christensen. "We have seen other export industries offered compensation for this toxic tax but tourism has received nothing to help them compete with overseas options."
Ferry company Cruise Whitsundays has estimated it will pay $770,000 over three years with the increased diesel cost the carbon tax will bring. Christensen said he would work on investigating how much the proposal would hit the bottom line of the budget.
"If you had a tax deduction it would lead to growth and demand in tourism expenditure resulting in increased revenue. This may not be the best solution but it appears to be at least a solution and the tourism industry needs anything it can get right now,” said Christensen.
President of the Whitsunday Bareboat Operators Association, Trevor Rees, who was one of the first to come up with the idea, said he believed the proposal could be more than revenue-neutral. Rees said the proposal was a way of benefiting all of Australia instead of giving out handouts to particular sectors and regions.
"This is not some parochial thing where we're sitting here in the Whitsundays asking for more money," said Rees. "This would benefit all of Australia. It would benefit the mum, dad and kids who holiday to the caravan park twice a year. It's not just for the rich."