Despite travails, Ferguson was a minister who counted
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.