ABC TASMANIA MORNINGS
MONDAY, 8 APRIL 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plans to give Aussie hotels owners greater control of their business, Budget 2019.
CATHERINE ZENGERER: Tourism might be booming right across Tasmania, but if you are an accommodation provider and you are listed with one of the major online booking companies such as Expedia and Booking.com, then you may have had to sign a contract to say that you can't actually offer a discount for your own accommodation that undercuts what by the listing is on their pages. It's a contract known as a price parity clause and it's something that Labor is saying that they will get rid of if they're elected. We're certainly seeing a lot of politicians coming to Tasmania as we head towards a possible election. Andrew Leigh is one of them. He is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer for Labor and he's in our Launceston studio. Good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER:Good morning Catherine. Great to be with you.
ZENGERER: So what's prompted this policy review by Labor?
LEIGH: It's the situation you described in which many Australians are now booking through one of these multinational online platforms, such as Kayak or Priceline,Booking.com or Expedia. They go by a host of names, but there's two of them that control 85 per cent of the market and they're taking a whopping share of the accommodation bill. So if you use one of these platforms, then when you stay at a hotel, up to a third of the total bill can go to amultinational. One of the ways in which they managed to get such a large share of revenues is by telling hotels that they can't offer a better deal on their own websites. These so-called price parity clauses are banned in a host of European countries and we think that it's appropriate to ban them in Australia. It tilts the playing field too far away from our local tourism providers and too much in favour of the big multinational duopoly. It's fine to charge something for putting a booking in place, but 30 per cent - really? That's just over the top.
ZENGERER: How many Tasmanian businesses are affected in your estimation?
LEIGH: It’d be thousands of Tasmanian businesses, as a result of the fact that you get more than a million tourists every year. When I talk to local hotel operators, they say more and more of their bookings are going through these platforms, which means more and more the revenue is going to people who don't change the sheets, don't clean the towels, don't mop the floors. It's going off overseas rather than staying right here in Tasmania. This is an extraordinary state. I was out doing my morning run inCataract Gorge this morning. It takes your breath away. So you want to ensure that you've got a vibrant tourism sector and at the same time that money is staying here in the state rather than going off overseas.
ZENGERER: Okay. How many accommodation providers would want to be providing some kind of alternative price or discount? Because I guess those big booking, online booking services could argue that they're going to be the go to people and surely they need to be running a profitable business to be making money from the services that they provide and really that's where tourists are going to be looking when they're going to be booking accommodation.
LEIGH: They’re running a more than profitable business. I don't think we're going to put them out of business by saying that a local bed and breakfast can offer a better deal through its own website. The Australian Accommodation Association has been advocating this very strongly, as have Youth Hostels Australia. They're delighted by Labor's announcement. One of the really pleasing things to me, Catherine, was that a little while after our announcement one of the two platforms - Expedia - said that they'll stop using these price parity clauses. Now we don't know whether they'll try other approaches in order to downgrade hotels who offer a better deal to people who book direct, but it was important progress and came straight on the back of Labor's policy announcement. We'd like Booking.com to make the same commitment, but we still think you actually need to change the law to tilt it in favour of local businesses.
ZENGERER: Okay. So of course this is something that you are saying you will change if you actually get elected. We haven't heard the Prime Minister call the election at this stage. We were perhaps expecting an election to be called on the weekend, but that seems to have been delayed yet again. There were some different poll results that came out on the weekend. I wondered if you might be interested in commenting on those - one was an Ipsos poll that said 53 to 47, putting the Morrison Government on course for a major election defeat. But then we had Newspoll coming out saying two party preferred the Coalition has engineered a four point turnaround since last month. What's your reading of the situation there? Do you think the Coalition is closing in on the government since their budget?
ZENGERER: Catherine, I spend about as much time reading poll results as I do combing through the obituaries. Fundamentally, I don't think it's the most important thing about politics. But what we know is that there is one side of politics that's been united under a single leader for six years. Bill Shorten's got us going into the next election with more positive policies than any opposition has taken to an election in Australian history. The announcement we made around a mental health hub in Launceston here on Saturday was just a reflection of what you can do when you're willing to make tough tax reform decisions around multinational tax and closing tax loopholes. That allows us to go into the election saying we'll pay down debt faster, we'll invest more in schools and hospitals and we'll offer bigger better fairer income tax cuts for 3 million Australians.
LEIGH: Okay. So Labor and the Coalition have agreed on that tax offset which is worth up to $1080 here for workers earning between $48,000 and $126,000. I know you're talking about offering tax cuts for workers earning less than $48,000 a year, but my question is there haven't been many sitting days scheduled before the end of the financial year this year. Will Labor commit to scheduling some sitting days if you do win government before June 30 so that those tax offsets can come through this financial year?
LEIGH: Absolutely. I am surprised that the government after beating its chest about these tax cuts, which were really just matching what Labor said we do last year, then didn't try and legislate through Parliament. We'd be looking to do that immediately, not only for the tax rate tax cuts for people from $48,000 to $126,000, but also for the Liberals’forgotten people: those earning under $48,000. Those three million people who Labor believes deserve a tax cut as well.
ZENGERER: Thanks for coming in this morning.
LEIGH: Real pleasure, Catherine. Thank you.
ZENGERER: Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer for Labor. He is in Launceston today.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.