Interview with Gareth Parker, 6PR Mornings

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

Gareth Parker: The Federal Tourism Minister is Dan Tehan. Dan, good morning.

Dan Tehan: Gareth, good to be with you.

Parker: Thanks for your time. So, what’s the appeal — it’s holiday in Australia, do your patriotic duty?

Tehan: That’s it. We want all Australians capitalising on these 800,000 discount flights that we’re going to put on offer for the next four months. We want Australians to start travelling. We want them to start travelling interstate. We want to make sure that people have the confidence to really support our tourism industry. And, with these discount flights, if you could make sure the money you save on the flight you then dip into your pocket and spend in a pub, at a restaurant, or on one of the wonderful tourism experiences that we have on offer right across this nation, that will support the 660,000 jobs in our tourism industry.

Parker: Okay. Now, are the routes finalised? Because my reading of the material so far suggests that Perth really only has access to Alice Springs out of this package. Is that right?

Tehan: So, what we’re doing, there will be flights into Broome, but the routes aren’t set in stone. We’ve been in negotiations with the airlines about these routes. What we’ve done initially is that we’re encouraging people to travel to those areas which have been hard hit by the loss of international tourists. International tourism is usually the responsibility of the Federal Government but what we’ve done throughout this pandemic is step in to support the tourism industry across the board while we wait for the coronavirus vaccine to be rolled out. But, these routes are not all set in stone. We will continue to work with the airlines to make sure that we can add additional capacity where it needs to be added.

Parker: But, the idea is to get, what, people from the capital cities into the regions? Is that sort of what you’re trying to achieve?

Tehan: That’s what we’re trying to achieve, and especially to those locations which rely predominantly on international tourists. Because the border, the international border, isn’t likely to be opened until towards the end of this year so we want to make sure we’re continuing to support those areas that are heavily reliant on international tourism — and, especially those areas which are four to five hours away from capital cities. What we’ve seen across the country is that tourism destinations within a three to four-hour drive of capital cities have done fairly well throughout this pandemic. It’s those that are a further distance away, which have required a flight to get there, that have been the hardest hit.

Parker: So, can I make this observation about state borders and the impact that they’re having. Over Christmas, I thought, well, look, it’s been a long year — 2020 — I’d love to go somewhere else, maybe Tasmania. I don’t know, anywhere. But, I took the calculation that said, you know what, I’m just not confident that the border’s not going to close behind me or I’ll be forced into quarantine when I get home. Same for Easter time. Same for the middle of the year. Isn’t this a big — you talk about confidence — isn’t this a big obstacle to confidence, the idea that state borders might shut behind people?

Tehan: It is the biggest obstacle to confidence. All the surveys that have been done by Tourism Australia say it is state border closures, more than the pandemic, which is now stopping people from travelling. So, one of the things we’re really looking for, along with this package, is a firm message from state and territory leaders that border closures will now be used as a last resort and if we can get that message through so that people can get travelling again, that’s the best way we can support the 600,000 jobs in our tourism industry. And, I met with state and territory tourism ministers yesterday afternoon and asked them to please make sure that they’re using state border closures very much as a last resort. We’ve got our contact tracing, we’ve got our testing in place, and we’ve got the vaccine rolling out. So, we need to get confidence back — confidence in getting people back into our capital city, along to our wonderful sporting events, but also getting on planes and travelling to our great tourism destinations.

Parker: So, Dan Tehan, did you get any commitment from Paul Papalia about that? Because, the West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has been pretty clear that he’s not interested in doing away with state border closures. He says he reserves his right to do it.

Tehan: Well, Western Australia is obviously in caretaker mode at the moment. So, the right and proper thing for them to do was to send a senior official along. But, they received the message, and my hope is once we’re through the state election, whoever is elected as the next Western Australian State Government will now look and think, okay, we need to use border closures as a last resort, use our health response as our first result, first response, and make sure that we get people travelling right across our great country again. Because, there are so many wonderful places to explore in our own backyard, and that’s what we want people doing.

Parker: I’ll give you the tip. It’ll be Mark McGowan who’s re-elected. So, is it time for him to come to the party on this?

Tehan: Look, I would love the Western Australia state premier, whoever it is, who’s elected, to really use border closures as a last resort. We’ve had time now to get our health response in place. We’ve got the vaccine rolling out. What we really need to do is put confidence back into people to get moving, to get travelling. That’s the best thing we can do — the 600,000 jobs in our tourism industry — make sure we’re supporting them by putting confidence into people to get moving again. People get moving again, our economy will really get moving.

Parker: Hey Minister, where’s your next holiday going to be?

Tehan: Look, I’m not quite sure. It’s been a pretty full on year for me at the moment, I haven’t been able to plan anything. I would love to be able to go to Western Australia and have a holiday. I’ve been to Rottnest Island, I’ve been up to Broome, you’ve got some wonderful, wonderful places to visit there. So, if I could sneak over to WA and have a week over there at some stage, it would make me a very, very happy man.

Parker: Righto. Dan Tehan, the Tourism Minister, thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it.

Tehan: Pleasure.

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