Interview Becc Chave, ABC South-East SA

  • Transcript
Subjects: International travel; vaccination rates; tourism.
20 August 2021

Becc Chave: Here to tell us more is the Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Mr Dan Tehan. Good morning.

Dan Tehan: Good morning, Becc. How are you?

Becc Chave: Good, thank you. Thank you very much for your time on the program this morning.

Dan Tehan: Pleasure.

Becc Chave: So, when can we dream of spending our pennies on some international travel?

Dan Tehan: Well, our hope is, and the plan is, that we will be able to open up the Australian border once we hit that 80 per cent vaccination rate. Now, obviously, we'll do that based on the very best health advice, but that's the plan. So, my hope is that we would be looking at opening up travel bubbles beginning next year. Obviously, we've had one operating with New Zealand. It is not operating at the moment due to the outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria, but we would hope to be in a position to reopen that and then look at places like Pacific Islands, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, potentially the UK and the US. So, all those things I think will be on the agenda next year.

Becc Chave: How exciting. And what would international travel look like? Would we still be seeing the sort of jam-packed tourism destinations?

Dan Tehan: Well, look, that will be very interesting. It will depend, I think, a lot on how COVID is affecting the countries that people will want to go to. So, if you look at some countries like Singapore where they've been successful, like Australia, in managing the virus, the hope would be that it would be relatively normal. There might be other countries, though, where they're still dealing with the virus where it might be very different, where it still might be masks needing to be worn and other social distancing precautions put in place. So, I think it will vary very much from country to country.

Becc Chave: You mentioned the 80 per cent vaccination rate that we need to reach, but what else needs to happen before then to help us get to those travel bubbles being opened? Do you need to do further works with international embassies to make sure that if complications and COVID outbreaks do occur, people aren't locked out of returning to the country?

Dan Tehan: So, we'll continue to have – so we are, sorry, and we'll continue to have discussions with overseas governments about the types of arrangements that we'll need to put in place for international travel. Those discussions have been taking place this year. It's how we got the New Zealand bubble up and running. There's been discussions with the Singaporean Government around how a bubble might operate with them. One of the things that we're working on, which Australians will need in a lot of countries that they have to – that they want to visit, will be a vaccination certificate. So, we're working so that you will be able to have a QR code which shows that you are vaccinated because it will be a requirement for many countries to be able to show that you've got proof of vaccination.
There might also be some requirements around testing. So, to make sure that we can have an ability for you to be able to demonstrate that you've been tested recently and it might be within 24 hours or 48 hours of you travelling. We want to make sure that there's readily available technology so you'll be able to also show proof of testing. So all that work is taking place right now so we're ready for when the border opens.

Becc Chave: We've been pretty lucky here in South Australia, avoiding a lot of outbreaks and lockdowns, which is very good by the community. Do you hope that it doesn't lull people into a false sense of security, though, and that vaccination rates continue to rise?

Dan Tehan: Well, we need those vaccination rates to continue to ramp up. Obviously, they are going ahead at speed now. We've passed that 50 per cent mark for all Australians. So, I think it's just vital that we all roll up our sleeves and get vaccinated because once we hit that 80 per cent, we know that that gives us a level of protection for us to be able to safely open up. I just encourage everyone to know that the Delta strain, in particular, you just don't know where or how it might hit. It's a lot more virulent. I've recently been overseas in my ministerial roles to Singapore, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea – all countries that did very well with dealing with the virus initially, they're all now dealing with the Delta strain, like New South Wales and Victoria are at the moment – or Melbourne. So, what I would say to everyone is we can't get lulled into a false sense of security. You need to get vaccinated. We need to keep doing what we can to encourage everyone to get vaccinated because that's the best way that we can keep safe and it's the best way, ultimately, that we can guarantee that we can open up to the rest of the world, which we need to do. We're a trading nation. We're a nation of people who love to travel and we need to get those borders reopened, or the border reopened again.

Becc Chave: You can imagine, I'm sure, that a lot of people who visit friends and relatives who live overseas would be very excited to hear those prospects today, particularly in those close by countries. Do you think the markets will be flooded with those trying to be reunited?

Dan Tehan: Look, I think there is very strong demand for international tourism. So, I know from all the work that we've done overseas that international tourists want to come back to Australia and want to continue to visit Australia, and we know also that friends and family and relatives want to start reuniting again. So, we know that as soon as we're in a position to do so there will be very strong demand for people to come here to Australia and for Australians to want to travel again. We have to remember, especially in regional and rural areas, that international tourism provides many jobs and a lot of income to a lot of businesses. So, that's one of the other reasons we're also very keen to make sure that we can get international tourism up and operating again, because of the incomes that are earned in our local communities from it. And that's one of the things that we often forget that there's over 660,000 jobs, which are generated from our tourism sector and it's very important as a way of diversifying our income, especially in regional and rural areas.

Becc Chave: You're on ABC South-East this morning. We're joined by the Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Mr Dan Tehan. Mr Tehan, do you think that there will be an associated cost with travelling internationally during a global pandemic? We've seen things in the arts in order to keep shows going and on the road, things like buy your own ticket and buy the seat next to you because of, obviously, things like social distancing requirements and capacity requirements in venues. Is that something that you think would start happening on passenger flights?

Dan Tehan: Well, it will be very interesting and we're obviously watching and monitoring very closely what's happening in the rest of the world. So, for instance, the United Kingdom now has started to open up again for international travel. We're starting to see the flights take place, for instance, from the US to the UK and so we're watching and monitoring that very closely. It will depend a lot on the arrangements that are put in place. There's talk that there could be testing required three days before you leave; that once you're at the airport they would do rapid testing, so tests that come back in the space of one to two hours; and then obviously proof of vaccination. And with all these requirements, travel could start to look normal in a sort of COVID-19 way. But we're watching and monitoring that very closely and the international experience will guide and help us in terms of the arrangements that are put in place here in Australia.

Becc Chave: So not quite back to the normal summer family holidays but a step towards the right direction. Thanks, Mr Tehan, very much for, hopefully, inspiring some of our listeners to get out their travel scrapbooks again and start planning. Thank you very much.

Dan Tehan: Thanks, Becc. It's been a pleasure to join you all and if we can make sure we get those vaccination rates up, I'm sure that they won't just be able to get out those travel scrapbooks; they will be able to put new photos into them in the coming years, which will be wonderful.

Becc Chave: Thank you. Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan there.

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