Australia to target rogue operators

GOLD COAST - The Australian government is cracking down on rogue tourist operators who are allegedly targeting Asian visitors to the Gold Coast. "Dodgy consumer practices can downgrade Australia's tourism reputation and affect the number of visitor arrivals," said Tourism minister, Joe Hockey. The minister said the new measures would complement police and fair trading initiatives already introduced by the state governments. The Queensland government recently introduced laws including lifetime bans and fines of up to A$250,000 (US$180,000) for rogue operators. Hockey said greater use of the services of tax and immigration officials would be one of the measures used to curb the activities of the rogue operators. According to a report in The Australian newspaper, Surfers Paradise Traders Association spokesman Stuart Cowen said kickbacks of as much as A$100 a head were being paid to inbound operators by unscrupulous shop owners. "Asian tourists are being taken away from the CBD and out to clearance factories where they are charged $5,000 for a $1,000 opal," he said.

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