Interview with Claire Murphy, The Quicky - Mamamia
Claire Murphy: We know it's a fine line between keeping the population of Australia safe and allowing them to move forward with their lives. We were told that the vaccine was the answer to the border closure situation. But after a slow program rollout affected by a Government not securing enough doses in the initial delivery, supply chain issues and now problems with the vaccines themselves, it seems not even that will be enough to reopen Australia to the world.
Dan Tehan is the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.
Dan, the PM has actually said that retail spending is up here in Australia. Is there an economic benefit to keeping our borders closed?
Dan Tehan: What we know is that Australians spend more overseas when they travel than what international tourists coming here spend in Australia. So, there is a net benefit of around $7.5 billion that has been measured in the December quarter as a result of the current circumstances we've got. But that doesn't mean that we don't want to open up our borders—and that is, ultimately, what our endgame is, when it's safe to do so., to get us back in a position where we can have Australians travel and international tourists come here because travel. While it's great for the economy, is also very good for business, it's great for investment, personal wellbeing, and understanding the rest of the world.
So, there are many other things apart from the economy that tourism brings and that's why we're, ultimately, very keen to get Australia opened up again, when it's safe to do so.
Claire Murphy: What do you say to those people who are separated from their families? This is the big emotional moment with closed borders, we've got grandparents who've never met grandchildren; we've got children separated from parents. What do you say to those people who are desperate and emotional right now who are staring down the barrel of potentially another year or more separated from their loved ones? What do you say to them?
Dan Tehan: This pandemic has been tough on many people, and the Government knows and understands that and has been doing everything that it can to try to help and support the whole country. We've done what we can to reunite people. We've put in place flights which, obviously, have been sponsored by the Government to bring Australians back and those flights continue.
We have enabled people to travel overseas where circumstances have led to them having needed to, whether it be for family reunion purposes or where there's been illnesses in families, and we’ll continue to do that. Understanding that we're also dealing with a pandemic and the circumstances that that pandemic can create if that virus gets into the Australian community can still have a devastating impact here.
So, everything is a balancing act and, given the circumstances, I think the Government is doing the best job that it possibly can in balancing up all these considerations.
Claire Murphy: Minister, realistically, how long can we keep Australia closed? If we come to mid-2022 and find ourselves in a similar position, more variants out there, higher rates amongst other countries, we're not fully vaccinated yet, potentially, would we still remain closed? How much longer can this go on for?
Dan Tehan: In the end, ultimately, what the Government will do is take the advice of our medical experts. We obviously continue to watch and work and monitor what's happening overseas. Our medical experts are in daily or weekly contact with medical experts internationally to keep assessing what is going on.
So, I think we can be confident that things will begin to open up next year. And that's our hope and that's what we want to try and achieve.