Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Tourism and aviation support package.
11 March 2021

Ben Fordham: The Minister for Tourism, Dan Tehan, joins us live on the line. Minister, good morning to you.

Dan Tehan: Morning, Ben. How are you?

Fordham: Well, I’m a little bit concerned. I’d love to know what we did wrong in New South Wales, because as far as I can see we followed the federal health advice to keep borders open, the Queensland Premier ignored your advice and that of the Chief Medical Officer, but she gets the lion’s share of this rescue package.

Tehan: So, Ben, this is a preliminary list of destinations. We’re going to continue to be updating it. We’ll be working with the airlines. One of the great things for New South Wales already is there are many discount flights coming into Sydney, so people can already take advantage of the wonderful attractions that there are in Sydney — whether it be the Blue Mountains or your wonderful coastline. And, we’ll continue to upgrade these destinations, working with the airlines to make sure that the capacity continues to be added, we keep protecting those jobs in the aviation industry and, in particular, the 660,000 jobs in the tourism industry.

Fordham: But, hang on a moment, Minister. This is federal help. This is funded by all taxpayers around the country, and you have backed 13 routes to five destinations in Queensland. In New South Wales, one route to one destination. That’s it.

Tehan: Yes. But, Ben, we’ll be continuing to work with the airlines, looking at other destinations where they think that they need the help and support which is going right around the country.

Fordham: … Well, can I can give you some suggestions. I mean, you don’t need to understand New South Wales too well to know that there are more people who want to fly to Byron Bay and up and down the coast, rather than singling out flights from Melbourne to Merimbula. Have you ever flown from Melbourne to Merimbula?

Tehan: I have actually, Ben. In a previous life I had a friend there and I have flown on that route but, the most important thing here, and the thing that we’ve got to remember, this is about the Federal Government stepping in to help interstate travel and we’ve got to remember that some regions, and particularly Byron Bay, have done exceptionally well through the pandemic …

Fordham: … What about Port Macquarie? What about Coffs Harbour? What about Tamworth, and Goulburn, and Grafton and Wagga? Those places aren’t doing too well. There’s no help for any of them. And, you give all the love to Queensland when the Queensland Premier expressly ignored every little bit of advice given by the Chief Medical Officer, every time Scott Morrison said there’s no evidence to back up the closing of borders. And, you have a look at the amount of times that she shut the borders compared to us. The first closure to New South Wales lasted 106 days from Queensland, the second 129 days after Victoria, the third one 42 days after the northern beaches. That’s 277 days that we were locked out of Queensland. We never shut the border to Queensland. We only shut it once to Victoria after the major outbreak there. So, we only did it once. And, you give us one flight from one destination, and that’s all we get as far as the support. I just don’t get it. Can you understand that people in Sydney would say, ‘What have we done wrong?’, when apparently we were doing everything right?

Tehan: Well, I’ve got to agree with you. The New South Wales Premier has done an outstanding job in the way she’s navigated through this pandemic …

Fordham: … Well, why have you dudded her then, on the flights? I don’t get it. Why have you dudded regional New South Wales?

Tehan: Well, Ben, what we’ve done is we’ve had to step in and support those locations, which predominantly have international tourists fly to them, which have been incredibly hard hit by this pandemic, that are a distance of three to four to five hours away from a capital city, because they’re the areas that really need our support and that’s what we’ve stepped in to do. And, people will be able to take these discount flights — 46,000 discount flights a week are on offer. We want everyone to start travelling. The biggest issue that we’ve had is we want to encourage and incentivise people to travel. We want to encourage and incentivise people to ensure that …

Fordham: … I get that. But, what about incentivising people for following the rules and following the advice? Because, if you go down the list, Queensland gets 13 routes to five destinations; the Northern Territory, eight routes to two destinations; Tassie, five routes to three destinations; WA, three routes to one destination; Victoria, two routes to one destination; South Australia, one route to one destination; and, New South Wales — the state that has kept its borders open at all times and followed the advice of Scott Morrison the whole way through — we are at the bottom of the list. So, where’s the incentive for following the health advice and following the wishes of the Prime Minister?

Tehan: Well, Ben, as I’ve said, what we’ll be doing is these will be upgraded. They’re not set in stone …

Fordham: … Well, I hope New South Wales gets a bit more love.

Tehan: Ben, I would love to give New South Wales more love. We’ll be working with the airlines to make sure that the routes that they think that they need support on to generate tourism growth that we’ll be making sure we’re supporting them, and that’s the whole idea. This is, these are the initial routes which have been done in negotiations with the airlines — also looking at where international tourism has been hard hit — and we will continue to update and upgrade them. And, my message to all Australians, all Australians, is we want you to take a holiday and not only that, with these discount airline tickets, what we want you to do is, the money that you save, make sure you put it into the pubs, make sure you put it into restaurants, make sure you put it into your tourism experience, because we want all Australians travelling right around our wonderful nation the next three or four months to support those 600,000 jobs in our tourism industry.

Fordham: Alright. I look forward to hearing about more love for New South Wales and more incentives for people to fly into New South Wales and those regional areas. We appreciate your time, Minister.

Tehan: Thanks, Ben.

Fordham: Dan Tehan, the Minister for Trade and Tourism.

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