A Shorten Labor Government will ensure Australian hotels can offer the best deal to people who book direct - Transcript, Doorstop

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
SURFER’S PARADISE
WEDNESDAY, 27 MARCH 2019

SUBJECTS: Labor’s plans to give Australian hotels greater control of their own businesses, Scott Morrison’s lack of leadership on One Nation, gun reform.

TRACEY BELL, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR MONCRIEFF: I’m Tracey Bell. I'm Labor's candidate for Moncrieff and it's great to be in Surfers Paradise today joined by Andrew Leigh, Labor's Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Luz Stanton Labor's candidate for Fadden, Aaron Santelises, Labor's candidate for McPherson and other tourism industry professionals. We're here today to discuss Labor's plans on how Australian hotels can have greater control over their own businesses. Over to you, Andrew.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks. It's great to be here with Labor’s terrific Gold Coast candidates Tracey Bell, Aaron Santelises and Luz Stanton, talking about Labor's plan to make sure that Aussie hotels get a fair go. Right now, a lot of Australians book their travel through one of the multinational booking platforms, run under names like Booking.com and Expedia.  They’ve got 85 per cent of the market and they can charge margins up as high as 30 per cent of the total hotel bill. That means 30 per cent of the bill is going to people who don't wash the sheets, who don't sweep the floors, who don't prepare the rooms. It means 30 per cent of the bill is going overseas, rather than staying right here on the Gold Coast. 

Labor will change that. A Shorten Labor Government will ensure Australian hotels can offer the best deal to people who book direct. They’ll be able to say ‘book direct and save’. That'll mean that for travellers, accommodation is cheaper and it'll mean for a great tourism sector, more of the money stays here in Australia. This has been part of a campaign that's been long run by the Accommodation Association of Australia and I commend Richard Munro, their CEO who has joined us here today and who will say a few words in a moment about this policy. Since we announced the policy, we've seen one of the big multinational platforms Expedia saying that they won't any longer formally enforce rules that stop hotels from offering the best deal on their own website. But it's not clear whether they'll still try and do that informally. Labor believes it's vital that Australians are able to get the best deal through their own website. 

This is another policy we've put in place to look after the interests of the Gold Coast. Here on the Gold Coast, we announced a franchise code, to ensure that automotive dealers aren't ripped off by the multinational manufacturers. Here on the Gold Coast, Tracey and I have recently been discussing phoenixing and Labor’s Tradie Pay Guarantee, making sure that tradies are looked after on big projects, so that if they do the work on time, they'll get paid on time. The LNP has forgotten the Gold Coast, but with people like Senator Murray Watt - whose office is based right here on the Gold Coast - we're ensuring that in the coming federal election, the people of the Gold Coast will have a real choice.

I'll hand over now Richard to Richard Munro to say a couple of words about the policy and then we’re happy to take questions.

RICHARD MUNRO: Thank you Andrew and thank you very much for those kind words. You can tell this is a very big policy for our industry. It means that money is going to stay within Australia. We've got a great outcome for our small business operators, we’ve got a great outcome for consumers. This policy we've been pursuing for some years. It was taken on by Andrew Leigh and his team and I congratulate them on taking it on because it means that we can deliver for small business, we can deliver for consumers and we are no longer under the yoke of two big multinationals who are dictating terms to small business. It's a real win and we absolutely appreciate the work that was done - the announcement and all the follow up has actually brought one of the big multinationals into a position as Andrew said that they've actually are going to change their policy. This is the first time that we know this has happened globally, so a terrific step, a terrific day, a terrific policy. So thank you very much, Andrew.

JOURNALIST: I just have a question, if I could just first Richard. Are you saying that the Gold Coast hotels are currently being ripped off?

MUNRO: What I'm saying is they don't have the ability to set their own price online on their own website that is actually below what the online travel agents can. That's actually, they’re forced into a contract where they don't have a choice. So this is giving those businesses the choice to be able to set rates and take it to the market with, like any other business does.

JOURNALIST: And you say that small businesses are being ripped off by this multinational, but this includes all hotels and including some of the larger-

MUNRO: This is all accommodation providers, but predominately the smaller properties out in places like Dalby that don't get a fair break and that want to be able to give prices online directly to their customers, they’re being prevented by doing that from these contracts the multinationals have given them. So this is a historic moment in terms of our industry, to be able to change that whole paradigm.

LEIGH: Just one final point on events of the day. We've seen Scott Morrison again refusing to put One Nation last on his how-to-votes. Scott Morrison as a Liberal should be proud of the achievements of the Howard Government in tightening Australia's firearms laws. The changes made by the Howard Government, according to research done by Christine Neill and myself, saved something in the order of 200 lives a year. The notion that One Nation would connive with the National Rifle Association to water down Australia's strong gun laws ought to outrage every Australian. If Scott Morrison wasn't such a weak leader then he would follow the lead of John Howard, who told Parliament that he would put One Nation last in every contest. This is a true test of Scott Morrison's leadership. A strong prime minister would put One Nation last in every Liberal and National contest around the country. 

Happy to take any other questions.

JOURNALIST: Going back to the Gold Coast hotels. So Gold Coast tourism is obviously a massive part of our industry here. Why is it that Labor's taking this particular fight on?

LEIGH: We believe in the fair go. We believe in looking after small business and this is a policy which will ensure that our accommodation industry is put ahead of offshore multinationals. This online booking duopoly controlling 85 per cent of the market is taking a huge whack of the hotel bills and sending them overseas. Under Labor's policy, millions more dollars will stay right here in the Gold Coast, will be available for those who wash the sheets, who clean the rooms, rather than going offshore to a booking provider who is taking in some cases 30 per cent of the hotel bill.

JOURNALIST: Is there a dollar figure at all that we can put on this, how much money is going to stay in the Gold Coast economy?

LEIGH: It'll be millions more staying in the Gold Coast economy. For all of those travellers right now who are booking through online travel providers, they'll have an opportunity to book direct with the hotel. I’d encourage Australian and international travellers when you’re planning to stay at a hotel, think about booking direct because more of the money will stay in the local Australian economy. And under Labor those deals will be even better. Travellers will pay lower rates. They'll have plenty of choice and we’ll ensure that the money is staying with the people who are running the hotels and motels and doing the work in those industries.

JOURNALIST: This came out a couple of weeks ago. How is this announcement new or is it just to say it’s here on the Gold Coast or is it to get your candidates out?

LEIGH: The Gold Coast has a terrific track record in tourism, so this is a natural place to be here talking about this announcement. But we have had an important change since then, which Richard mentioned before. The decision by Expedia to drop their use of full price parity clauses does mark a significant reaction by one of the two duopolists. Labor calls on Booking.com to follow the lead of Expedia. We call on Expedia to make sure that they're not enforcing price parity clauses by stealth and that are actually treating hotels the same, regardless of the price they're offering on their own websites.

JOURNALIST: So we are assuming that a multinational company that, as you say, has a duopoly on the industry has changed and backflipped on the massive financial opportunity for them because of a potential policy that could be implemented by a potential government?

LEIGH: Absolutely. They've seen the writing on the wall and they know that in many European countries that these price parity forces have been banned. Now, they've seen that a Shorten Labor Government would ban them here in Australia. I commend Expedia for stepping back from formal price parity clauses, but they need to go further, make sure they're not ‘darkening’ - as it's called in the industry - providers who offer a better deal on their own website. Plus we need to see Booking.com come into the party as well.

JOURNALIST: Tracey, can we just get something from you. Just being a candidate for Moncrieff, obviously that seat has a bit of a spotlight on it. There is quite a big margin. Are you feeling any pressure with the election coming closer?

BELL: Absolutely no real great pressure, no more than what you would feel as a candidate. Yes, we have a significant margin. But you know, I'm here to do a job. I’m here to stand for the people as an everyday person. I'm not interested in any other game that any other party may or may not play. I'm focused on my own campaign, my own team and my own goals.

JOURNALIST: What are some of the key parts of your campaign?

BELL: Standing up for everyday working Australians, building that stronger economy, fixing our hospitals and our schools and as as an early childhood educator, I see so many families struggling on the Gold Coast, even back with the tradie guarantee - so many of those workers are coming through my service and unable to pay their bills and suffering the mental anguish. So that resonates very, very strongly with me. So, just a people for the people.

LEIGH: No more questions? Thanks, everyone.

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: STEPHANIE ANDERSON (LEIGH) 0431344056


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.