Interview with Jim Wilson, 2GB Drive

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Multinational tour operators; fuel excise; cruise industry.
14 March 2022

JIM WILSON: I want to bring in Federal Tourism and Trade Minister Dan Tehan, who joins me live. Minister, welcome back to Drive.

DAN TEHAN: Always a pleasure to be with you, Jim.

JIM WILSON: Well, you've heard the plight of people like John in South Lismore. I mean, this is just disgraceful behaviour by some of these multinational tour operators, Minister.

DAN TEHAN: Yes, it is and, look, I would be very happy to take this up on behalf of John. We've already spoken to, and if he could get in touch with my office through you, Jim, we will take it up further. And also, look, I agree with you – what I would call on all Australians to always do is just book direct with the motel. It's the best way to go. Give them a call. You can speak to the people who are there. You start a conversation with them so when you turn up you know who you're staying with. It's far better to do, and more of the money goes into their pockets rather than the middle man.

And I think you're absolutely right – it's a very, very good reminder, if you can, just book directly with the motel or hotel operator, because it's far better for them. All the money goes to them, and we do cut out the middle man. And it's a better way to support small and medium-sized businesses, in particular, in this country. So, I think you're spot on and right on the money.

JIM WILSON: Okay. So other countries, Minister, have banned them in the past. I know Sweden and Norway did, as did Turkey. Would you consider following suit, especially when you hear hard-working mum and dad businesses being treated like this one, with John and Annabelle up in South Lismore?

DAN TEHAN: Well, look, we'd prefer always to give people choice and so, at the moment, what we are doing is just encouraging people to go direct. But, obviously, if there's a consumer backlash – and the thing is that will get a consumer backlash if they keep acting like this, and what I would hope – what I would hope – is that they will understand the plight of all those businesses that have been impacted by the floods and act immediately. Because what they need to do is get a real understanding of the hurt and pain on the ground from this one-in-a-500-year flood and surely it's not beyond their comprehension to be able to understand that and to be able to ring up and say to these business owners, "What can we do to help and support you during this difficult time? You've helped us by giving us an income when people book through". Surely they must be able to ring up and say, "It's our turn to give a little bit back". Like the TV studios did. All of them came together and did that terrific fundraising for the community. That's the type of thing that we need corporates doing at the moment, it’s how can we support these communities, not how do we make things harder for them.

JIM WILSON: Well, they take all their profits offshore. Their head offices are offshore. They've got no real representation here, I mean, can you clarify something for me: do these multinational company pay tax?

DAN TEHAN: They pay tax and they do have representative offices here, and that's who we've been in contact with but, obviously, if they do want to keep being used by the Australian consumer they're going to have to lift their game. It's absolutely clear from what we've seen.

JIM WILSON: When you say they pay tax, though, Minister, are you just talking about GST, or they pay above that as far as tax goes?

DAN TEHAN: Well, it depends on the different arrangements that they have here in Australia. So it's hard to give an exact response because it often depends on their headquarters that they have here, where it's located and then – but obviously the majority of the income resides back with the corporate headquarters. So – and that's why, you know, as we said at the start, Jim – and I fully support what you're saying – the best thing is for the Australian consumer to deal direct with the hotel or the motel. And you build up that personal rapport with the owners as well before you go and stay with them.

JIM WILSON: I suppose the other thing you could do is also have, like, a one-stop shop like under the Tourism Australia banner, couldn't we?

DAN TEHAN: Look, it is the sort of thing that you can do, and there are – obviously there are some Australian companies who do online bookings as well. But I think the most important point here is for the Australian consumer is to always be aware of who you're dealing with and, where you can, always try and support the local Australian business.


DAN TEHAN: And the best way to do that is to deal direct with that business.

JIM WILSON: Yeah. And the bottom line is if they don't lift their act, then just boycott them, these multinationals.

DAN TEHAN: Well, and that's what's going to happen. I mean, look, you've raised this loud and clear, and I imagine everyone's who's been listening to you over the last few days is sitting there thinking, "Well, what's the best thing for me next time I need to book a holiday? I should deal directly because that's the way that I know the money is going directly to the business and stays with the business".


DAN TEHAN: And the more people like you do the job that you're doing, I think, the more these companies are either going to have to lift their game or people won't use them.

JIM WILSON: Yeah, well, it's impacting a lot of Aussie businesses, hard-working mums and dads, so we are going to stay on the case. I'm speaking with Tourism and Trade Minister Dan Tehan. Now, Minister, I want to talk about trade. I mean, the price of goods here in Australia is so high right now, we're definitely seeing inflation. Can you give us any hints about upcoming budget relief for Australians? In particular, will you slash the fuel exercise?

DAN TEHAN: Well, look, cost of living will be a centrepiece of the upcoming budget, there's no question of that, Jim. I can't go into the details of the budget. I sit on the Expenditure Review Committee of the Cabinet, so I can't do that. But cost of living is something which will be a centrepiece of the budget. We understand and we're aware that cost of living is a serious, serious issue that's hitting households at the moment and we want to do what we can.

And, you know, the hallmark of this Government has been keeping a strong economy and making sure that those employment levels stay very strong – 4.2 per cent heading to 3 per cent, which is the lowest it's been in a very, very long time. Youth unemployment heading to levels it hasn't been since the early 70s. So, we want to make sure that we keep the economy strong, but in doing that also we want to make sure that we're able through doing that to help households with cost of living pressures. And this will be a central piece of the budget, which will be handed down I think it's only two weeks away.

JIM WILSON: Two weeks away, yeah. I mean, surely at 44 cents a litre – and the PM hinted at this yesterday in an interview with Chris Uhlmann on the Nine Network – surely there's room to, you know, move as far as offering relief, especially with petrol prices expected to go even higher.

DAN TEHAN: Well, look, I represent a regional and rural electorate and a lot of families, mums and dads, young people, have to cover a lot of miles to get into work, going to sporting events et cetera, so it is something that we're absolutely aware of. Obviously for those, that offroad use from our farmers and our miners when they use diesel, they get the diesel fuel rebate, but for mums and dads and families, this is something that we know is having an impact.

And, look, the budget will be in two weeks time. But we watch what's happened with the invasion of Russia into Ukraine. We've seen the oil price soar. We understand that that's now having a real impact on the bowser. And so, you know, there is a need for us to be able to listen to the Australian community. It's what we've always tried to do when we're in government is make sure we're out there listening and really supporting people to make sure that we can help them with the pressures that they face.

And, you know, having a job has been absolute hallmark of what we've set out to do while we've been in government, and helping families deal with costs is another thing.

JIM WILSON: Just one final one in your role as Tourism Minister, there's a lot of pressure on you and your government to set a return date for the cruising industry in this country. They're cruising around the world but they're not cruising here. Can you give any sort of – shed any light on any sort of dates so far as the cruise industry resuming in Australia?

DAN TEHAN: Yes, we should be able to have cruising resume in this country on April the 17th. The New South Wales Premier was out yesterday saying he wants cruising back. That's great news because we've been waiting for a state and territory to partner with us because it requires both federal and state calls or decisions to make this happen. I spoke with the Queensland Tourism Minister last night, he's keen for Queensland to join New South Wales.

So, my hope is that Wednesday at the latest we will be able to announce that cruising can resume as of the 17th of April. Now, it takes weeks of planning for the cruises to come back. So if we can give them that firm date it means they'll start planning and we should have cruise ships hopefully back here in 6, 10, 12 weeks' time, which will be wonderful news.

JIM WILSON: So mid-April is the date, though? That's the one you've set?

DAN TEHAN: Mid-April is the date. So long as my good friends, the Queensland Tourism Minister and New South Wales Tourism Minister, sign on the dotted line, we're there. The Commonwealth is there. I spoke to them both yesterday.


DAN TEHAN: They're very keen to move so, unless there is something that comes up from their health officials in the next two days, we're ready and rearing to go.

And it's not only great for the cruise industry; it's great for travel agents in Australia. They get a lot of income from booking cruises and so we want to make sure that we can get it back for them as well. We're ready to go.


DAN TEHAN: We've been ready to go for some period of time. And nothing will make me happier than having this issue sorted. And I am very, very confident it will be done by Wednesday.

JIM WILSON: Thanks for your time this afternoon, Minister.


Media enquiries