De­spite tra­vails, Fer­gu­son was a min­is­ter who counted

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LISA ALLEN

MARTIN Fer­gu­son was of­ten crit­i­cised by the $96 bil­lion tourism in­dus­try for paying too much at­ten­tion to min­ing — at the ex­pense of the leisure sec­tor — dur­ing his six-year ten­ure as fed­eral re­sources, en­ergy and tourism min­is­ter.

At his fi­nal press con­fer­ence on March 22, Fer­gu­son ad­mit­ted that tourism was ‘‘in some ways the of­ten for­got­ten part of my port­fo­lio’’.

Former Tourism & Trans­port Fo­rum chief ex­ec­u­tive Christo­pher Brown makes his feel­ings on the is­sue clear when he says that ‘‘Fer­gu­son was a very good min­is­ter for re­sources.’’

But not ev­ery­one is scathing of the ex-min­is­ter’s ten­ure, which ended with his res­ig­na­tion from Ju­lia Gil­lard’s cab­i­net.

The former chair­man of the Aus­tralian Tourist Com­mis­sion and Tourism Queens­land, Don Mor­ris, points out that Fer­gu­son out­lasted five Queens­land tourism min­is­ters and, cru­cially, forged a good re­la­tion­ship with Tourism Aus­tralia, the fed­eral government’s key mar­ket­ing arm.

‘‘That is why Tourism Aus­tralia has been so ef­fec­tive over the past three or four years,’’ Mor­ris says. ‘‘Fer­gu­son led very well, he is very ap­proach­able, al­ways con­struc­tive and very down to earth. He acutely un­der­stood the eco­nomic im­por­tance of tourism, which gov­ern­ments do not, by and large, in job cre­ation. He un­der­stood the im­por­tance of Asia.

‘‘The bot­tom line is he was a very good min­is­ter. I am a shame­less fan; he is au­then­tic, sin­cere, in­tel­li­gent. It’s a great pity that he has re­signed.’’

Aus­tralian Tourism Ex­port Coun­cil man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Feli­cia Mar­i­ani adds that Fer­gu­son helped bring the var­i­ous state and fed­eral en­ti­ties to­gether to ‘‘fo­cus our in­dus­try on a long-term strat­egy to over­come some of the is­sues that have held it back in the past’’.

Fer­gu­son ar­gued that there had been some sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments on his watch. ‘‘We have stopped in­dus­try from think­ing that more money on ad­ver­tis­ing will sim­ply work,’’ Fer­gu­son said at the press con­fer­ence, list­ing his achieve­ments as over­haul­ing the Tourism Aus­tralia board and ap­point­ing former Qan­tas chief ex­ec­u­tive Ge­off Dixon as TA chair­man.

‘‘It is a busi­ness-ori­ented board with tremen­dous achieve­ments and sup­port from in­dus­try and state and ter­ri­tory gov­ern­ments,’’ Fer­gu­son said.

‘‘It also fo­cused on sup­ply-side is­sues, such as in­vest­ment in new prod­uct and how we can cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple who are seek­ing a ca­reer in the tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try.’’

The new min­is­ter, Gary Gray, has big shoes to fill.

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