Interview with Danica de Giorgio, Sky News
Danica de Giorgio: Well, joining me now live to discuss the day's big issues is Dan Tehan, Minister for Tourism and Trade. Minister, good morning. Thank you for joining me. We will get to the New Zealand-Australia travel bubble in a minute but let's start first with this vaccine rollout. The Prime Minister says that the EU has blocked three million doses to Australia. The EU has overnight denied that. What is the situation?
Dan Tehan: Well, the EU put in place export controls which have limited the amount of vaccines that can come to Australia, but if the EU are now saying that they've lifted those export controls that is wonderful news and, in particular, wonderful news for PNG because, as you know, we have a request in for one million doses to go to PNG and the situation on the ground there is fraught when it comes to COVID-19. So [audio skip] is that what we've heard from the EU overnight is that those export restrictions are lifted and those one million doses that are so desperately needed in PNG will be on their way sooner rather than later.
De Giorgio: Okay. But do you have a time frame on when we can expect those doses?
Tehan: Well, obviously, we've got contracts with AstraZeneca so AstraZeneca have to apply to be able to export from the European Union and then those applications need to be approved by the European Union. So, my hope is, now what we'll see is the EU approve those applications immediately and, in particular, approve the application of those one million doses for PNG immediately so that those doses can get on the ground in PNG as soon as possible.
De Giorgio: So, who is to blame here, Minister? Is it the EU or is it AstraZeneca or is this more a deflection?
Tehan: No, what we've seen is that the European Union put in export controls. Now, as you would remember, the WTO Director General said at the time that this was not the way that we wanted to see countries or groups of countries to behave. Vaccine nationalism was not going to help the globe. And, as a result of the EU putting in those export restrictions, we've seen AstraZeneca not want to put in applications for fear of rejection because they were being rejected so now that we seem to be getting a different message from the EU - and a very positive one, it's one that I welcome, and I say to the EU the fact that you're indicating that you're going to lift these export restrictions, in particular, we're going to see approval for those one million vaccines to be able to go to PNG, that is very, very good news.
De Giorgio: Okay, but just confirming, Minister, you're confident we will see these doses arrive in Australia soon.
Tehan: Well, what we've heard from the European Union overnight seems to be a change, and if that is a change it is a very welcome one. And we've put in the application to get those one million doses for PNG and my hope is what we're going to hear in the next, hopefully 24, 48 hours or the next five days, is the EU saying, ‘yes, those doses can be sent to PNG', one million doses to help with that very fraught situation on the ground.
De Giorgio: All right. Let's move on now to the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand. Minister, there've been concerns that Australia won't reap the rewards with people coming over here likely to stay with family and friends. Are their dollars going to go where it is needed the most?
Tehan: There will be and we're launching a $30 million advertising campaign in New Zealand that will start on Thursday. Tourism Australia have been doing the work and they're ready to launch as soon as we got word that the two-way bubble was ready to go.
1.4 million New Zealanders visit Australia every year, they spend $1.6 billion. Now, we've got to remember, there's nowhere else for New Zealanders to go other than Australia so we want to build on those 1.4 million Kiwis coming here and that 1.6 dollars billion spend and that's what we're going to be targeting. So, to all those New Zealanders, Australia has never been better. Our wonderful locations and destinations have never been better so jump on a plane, come and visit, make sure when you do, put your hand in your pocket and spend big.
De Giorgio: Absolutely. And, Minister, what happens if there is an outbreak in New Zealand? How will you navigate in the event of a potential outbreak?
Tehan: Well that'll be navigated in the normal - normal course. The AHPPC, the medical expert panel, will look at the outbreak and it, obviously, has all the state and territory chief medical officers sit on the AHPPC, so they'll provide national advice and then state and territory chief medical officers will provide advice to state and territory governments.
But what we've seen over the last few weeks is real confidence return to Australians in their will and want to travel. We've seen our half-priced airfares snapped up at record levels, and we want to make sure that we can continue to build on that confidence and all the —New Zealand and Australia and the states and territories agree that they'll try and give as much notice as possible if there is a COVID outbreak of the type of restrictions that will need to be put in place. But our hope is that what we'll see is faith put in contact tracing and in testing and the border closures is seen as a last resort, because Australians want to travel, they want to travel domestically, New Zealanders want to travel, and we want to make sure that as many New Zealanders as possibly can, can come here to Australia and enjoy the wonderful locations and tourism offerings that we have here.
De Giorgio: Just finally, Minister, we're in an interesting situation now where Queensland arrivals into WA are still forced to quarantine for two weeks but people can now, as of later this month, travel quarantine-free overseas before actually being able to fly within parts of Australia. How does that make sense?
Tehan: Well, all along, the Australian Government has asked the states and territories to come together so that we can get a national hotspot regime put in place. Now, we haven't been able to get that from the states and territories, but we're still hoping that over time we might be able to see a national regime put in place and that would be a great thing because, as we open up to the rest of the world, being able to present a nationally consistent approach to hotspot definitions and how we deal with them will help.
But, in the meantime, as we've stated with New Zealand, we can put in place a bubble, even though we have different types of arrangements with states and territories here in Australia.
And the positive message is - and especially for those 600,000 jobs that are dependent on it in our tourism industry, is that Australians do want to travel, they do want to move around, they do want to go to the wonderful locations that we have here in this nation. We now have the opportunity for Kiwis to come here and we want to be doing everything we can to be supporting our tourism industry.
So, for everyone who is travelling here in Australia, make sure you're putting your hand in your pocket and spending big.
De Giorgio: Absolutely. Minister Dan Tehan, we have to leave it there. Thank you for joining me.
Tehan: Been a pleasure.
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555