Day 886: An Open Letter to Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson


After the death threats I received for slagging off the Cape Verde police force on this very blog, I learnt a pertinent lesson: don’t say what you really think until you’ve left the damn place.  I was therefore saving my torrent of abuse concerning the Australian government’s wretched treatment of tourists until after I was well shut of the otherwise good land of Oz.

However, after finding out it’s going to cost me $255 to extend my AUSTRALIAN TOURIST VISA (which I shouldn’t need in the first place), the dam has burst.

The fury leaping out of my fingertips must be converted to 1s and 0s and plastered all over the net before I explode.

The Aussie Tourist Visa (that’ll be $29 please, thanks KA-CHING!) lasts just a paltry three months.  Then you’re supposed to fly to another country and back to renew it for another three months.  If you can’t be arsed doing that (unsurprising when the nearest OTHER COUNTRY from Melbourne is at least four hours away on a jumbo jet) you’re hit by a admin fee that is actually MORE THAN the minimum penalty for being caught drink driving.

If I’m to read between the lines here, I would have to suggest that tourists in Australia are less welcome than drink drivers.  Ygads.

First up, I want you to realise something: last year, more tourists visited Bulgaria than visited Australia.  You think that’s bad?  More people visited Syria than visited Australia.  But then you can get a visa for Syria upon arrival.  See where I’m going with this?

There are, of course, salient geographical reasons for Australia’s dismal tourist figures: Australia is, after all, miles from anywhere.  Getting to Melbourne from Europe means sitting on a minimum of two planes for a minimum of 24 hours.  Needless to say, it’s not somewhere you go for a weekend break.

Coupled with the wince-inducing strength of the Aussie dollar (take any price and double it. Then double it again.), the logic of being the ONLY WESTERNISED NATION IN THE WORLD to require TOURIST VISAS from Europeans just utterly beggars belief.  Yes, you don’t need a visa to visit Argentina, a country the UK was at war with in the 80s.  But you do need a visa for Australia… a country that puts our Queen on their banknotes and our flag in the corner of theirs.

I hate hate HATE having to apply for a visa to visit a country.  99% of the time it instantly marks a state out as being nasty, oppressive and totalitarian.  There are 142 countries out of the UN 192 that do NOT require a European tourist to purchase a pre-paid visa.  Those that do are in the minority: they include such luminary and enlightened countries as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Belarus, Angola, Libya, Turkmenistan, Guinea, Somalia… and Australia.

I can’t stress this fact enough: I have been to every westernised country that exists in the world and not one of them required me to ask permission of the government to pop in for a visit.  Except Australia.

Are Europeans likely to come here by mistake?  Might they take that ill-fated left turn at Albuquerque and end up in Alice Springs?  Maybe Australia is terrified of being swamped with the flotsam and jetsam of the richest and most powerful countries in the world [insert lame convict joke here].  Is it because Australia is so insecure, so tentative in its footsteps on the world stage that it would prefer to linger in the collective subconscious as Crocodile Dundee’s delightful Aboriginal-loving kangaroo-saving larrikin without having to suffer the indignity of people coming here finding out it’s not like that at all?

Indeed, the only logical conclusion one can sensibly reach is that Australia doesn’t want, much less need tourists.  Like the boat people (and the Aboriginals if only they weren’t – you know – here first) Aussies would much rather you buggered off back were you came from.  Which is not just sad, it’s self-sabotage on a scale that would make your average West African dictator blush.

And – dear lord – have you seen the ads?  The ‘come to Australia’ ads.  OH. MY. GOD.  They give me visions of entering the Australian Tourist Board Marketing Department to find a room filled with baboons wistfully daubing the walls with their own faeces.  See for yourself:

Let me make this quite clear: we are not talking about working visas here, we are talking tourist visas.  Australia makes around $17 BILLION a year from tourism.  I don’t know if the government is too arrogant or too incompetent to understand what a whopping great chunk of cash that is, but I can’t help but feel pretty damn unappreciated for all my hard work over the last ten years periodically dragging money from my British bank account and peppering it like candy around the dance halls, dives and brothels of ol’ Melbourne town.

Lest not forget that the Australian tax payer did not pay for my education (thanks, Blighty old chum), I cannot claim benefits, the dole, working tax credits or train to be a master of falconry while I’m here.  I cannot work, I cannot claim free medical care and if I’m hit by a car, it will cost me (or my insurance company) $779 just to be taken to the damn hospital.  No, really – the ambulances here aren’t free.

In contrast — and by ‘contrast’ I mean ‘ARE YOU FRIKKIN’ SERIOUS??’ — an Aussie tourist can pop over to the good ship UK any time they want, they don’t have to ask for prior permission(!), they can stay up to six months (visa free), can visit pretty much every other country in Europe while they are there (visa free) and get hit by cars all they like because the ambulance dragging their mangled remains back to the hospital is paid for by the Great British taxpayer.

This is because in the UK we don’t just like tourists, we LOVE tourists.  They’re like little mobile piggy banks dispensing fivers around the realm, fivers that we didn’t have to invest a packet of our tax money to generate in the first place – tourists are a net gain for my country, your country, any country.

I’m not saying this situation is unfair, the fact that UK is enjoying the fruits of a massive boom in tourism over the last fifty years is not something I’m ever going to disparage – long may it continue.  But the way the Australian government treat its tourists is stupid.  Plain and simple, totally and utterly, mindbogglingly and heartbreakingly stupid.

So, in short, Mr. Ferguson – you are a treasonous dog who is diddling the good people of Australia out of their much-needed tourist dollars.  Visa requirements for tourists from prosperous western nations should be scrapped immediately and a six month entry stamp should be the norm.

Oh, and if you want your long-suffering tourist board to produce an advert that wouldn’t make Basil Fawlty scoff at your embarrassingly barnyard attempts at advertising, put a European in charge.  Actually, put ME in charge.  With a decent budget, a small film crew and a handful of good looking actors, I could make each and every feisty travel-lovin’ European sit up and beg for buttermilk.  Australian buttermilk.

Melbourne, Australia
June 5 2011

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. gavinmac

    I just responded to this rant on twitter. You can probably guess what I had to say. I’m not very original.

  2. martin

    the reason why tourism is lacking in oz Cause Australian custom are a bunch of paranoid wankers to overseas people and their own citerzens.

    I have told Australian customs to go suck balls after they searched my bag because i went to america, i was broke and i was walking around baggage claim worried that my bag was missing.


    Since my outburst at australian customs i have became a British Citizen, I have personal denoucned myself as Australian and i have told Australian Customs. If you bother me again because i go outside of Oceania i will leave australia and move to the european union

    And if thats the start of my hatred towards my own ex country let me just say



    Chopper read would probably say

    This is Jeremy hes a Customs officer and he is very paranoid of Australians going outside of the continent. *Oh you went to America and the middle east* HARDEN THE FUCK UP JEREMY

  3. Dylan

    Hi Graham,

    I just finished watching Graham’s World and I loved it. Great show and some serious adventures that made me keep watching. After the last episode I wanted to find out more about you and I found myself on this website. I really admired and respected your efforts to travel. However after reading this blog post I realise that you are an idiot.

    I work at a Hostel in Sydney so the tourist industry pays me. I know the visa requirement are a bit tuff here, but it has to be. You see Graham, Australia is the best country in the world, everyone knows it and everyone wants to live here. We have boats of asylum seekers coming weekly, that says it all. Every day I have disscusions with backpackers about their visa running out and wishing they could stay longer if not forever. And thats the problem EVERYONE WANTS TO STAY HERE. That is why our visa regulations are so strict, if we let everyone stay for 6 months they would and probably forget they even had a visa in the first place and just stay indefinatly as a illegal imigrant working for cash in hand, there is thousands of chinese that have been doing it for years. I suggest you do some useful reasearch like how many English ex-pats there are living in Australia or how many European ex-pats there are. Or maybe reasearch how Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. And another thing, this isnt Europe, WE ARE NOT PART OF THE EU, calling Australia nasty and oppresive comparing it to regime nations is just plain stupid. We dont have the luxury of 100 boarders to cross and travel as easily as you do, If I want to travel I have to save thousands of dollars and pay at least $1000 to fly out of here, I cant work in Europe without a visa and last I checked the pound and euro is still stronger than the AUD$.

    Graham, I can understand your frustrations at the visa problems. But if you dont like it piss off back to england or ur next country or whateva. Why are you here for longer than 3 months anyway? shouldnt you be off to your next country by now? Cant find a boat to take you for free? Stop being a bum and get a job on a cruise ship, they will happily take you to all the Pacific Island nations by boat. Or better still pay for it you cheap ass!

    Graham, I really like your show, but you should think before you write.
    Im Australian and Proud of it, and you have offended me. All this coming from a guy who is marrying an Australian girl. Your a dickhead Graham.



    1. Dylan

      Hi Graham,

      Firstly I would like to apologize for my previous rant. Its not a good excuse but I was a bit drunk when I wrote it, so im sorry. I guess I was a bit dissapointed that someone that I admired and respected would turn around and bag Australia, however after a few too many beers I admit it probably wasnt the best time to argue the point. You were right and I was wrong, I admit my mistake, once again im sorry.

      So now that I feel like the idiot I am, I will go ahead and donate some money to water aid with my next pay check. Graham I honesty love the show and hope to see a second series some time soon. I do admire and respect you as a fellow traveller and see that you are a frendly, nice guy. Which makes me feel so bad for writing those stupid comments.

      Graham good luck with rest of your trip, hopefully you can get off this island sooner rather than later. SORRY FOR MY STUPID RANT.



Leave a Reply