Drink Tank

When push comes to shove: a tale of interns, tourism and political influence

A Commonwealth Government internship program partnership with the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) is already paying dividends.

The newly announced expansion of the program has generated its first paid gig; a plum role on the Board of Tourism Australia for Bradley Woods, Chief Executive Officer of the AHA (WA).

It was only last month that Bradley Woods was shaking hands with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Senator Michaelia Cash at the doorstop to announce the details of the government internship program PaTH.

Criticism of the program in the lead up to the AHA announcement had in fact been severe. In July, Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney said the program offered no path to qualification, employment or workforce protection, and claimed, “This is a government-sanctioned program that actually borders on slavery”.

Likewise Labor and the Greens have been steadfast in their opposition to the program are opposed to the program, which appeared in danger of failing before the AHA came to the rescue.

But that’s now in the past. One minute Wood’s is waving off criticism that the scheme is a bit rubbish and of value only to employers who not only get free labour – but receive a $1,000 bounty per intern as well. The next minute he’s unwrapping his own personal gift; an appointment to the Board of Tourism Australia.

And while Governments of every political persuasion are guilty of giving away jobs for the boys and girls, rarely do the rewards flow so freely and so fast.

This case is also worthy of greater scrutiny. The AHA, both at the state and national level, are one of the country’s most powerful lobby groups and wield enormous influence.

At the doorstop the PM said, “Bradley, I want to thank you for you and all your members for the support that you are showing”.

It would appear that debt has now been settled.

Of course it always helps to have friends in high places.

Announcing the appointment on 5 September, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo said he was pleased to welcome Bradley to the Board.

The announcement was seemingly prompted by questions from The Guardian’s Melissa Davey following rumours the chairman and deputy chairman of Tourism Australia were about to be dumped in favour of Woods.

Now, there will be those who argue that someone with 25-years as a Hotel industry lobbyist is perfectly qualified to take his seat on the Tourism Australia Board.

But a far better question would be, what is the breadth of experience on the current Board, and have we got the balance right?

Should Tourism Australia’s focus be on selling hotel rooms, or would the taxpayers dollars be better spent marketing the products that make up the Australian ‘experience’; the thing after all, that makes our nation a unique tourism destination?

One of Tourism Australia’s Board members unquestionably had a great deal of experience in selling and marketing those unique Australian ‘experiences’.

Andrew Fairley AM, an expert in nature-based tourism only recently retired as Chair of Parks Victoria after 6 years of service and is the former Chair of Zoos Victoria.

He was, until a few days ago, the Deputy Chair of Tourism Australia, and widely tipped to become the next Chair.

Now he’s gone.

In ‘Board’ speak and in the language of Ciobo’s media release, he has ‘retired’.

In truth, he was pushed.

Had he fallen out of favour, and why?

It might help to take a closer look at the Tourism Minister. Steven Ciobo has proven himself a good friend of the alcohol industry.

In August last year, Ciobo told the Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) Conference, that it was traffic, and not alcohol causing assaults to rise.

He urged liquor retailers to push back against moves to regulate the industry.

Which is why, as disappointing as it is, to see the Board of Tourism Australia diminished with the ‘retirement’ of Andrew Fairley, in truth, we cannot say it is very surprising.

As Chair of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, and with a steadfast commitment to stop the harm from alcohol, it is perhaps no surprise that Mr Fairley finds himself on the outer and out of favour.

Ciobo’s clearly no friend of FARE. From FARE’s perspective we are left in no doubt that the alcohol industry’s connections to government has been responsible for Fairley’s punting from the Board of Tourism Australia to be replaced by a leading industry lobbyist.

Michael Thorn

Michael Thorn

Michael is the Chief Executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), and tweets from @MichaelTThorn.

Add comment

Join our mailing list