Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, Today Show

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Travel bubble with Singapore, COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Tourism and aviation support package, Women’s March 4 Justice.
15 March 2021

Karl Stefanovic: For more on this we are joined by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan in Canberra. Minister, thank you for your time this morning. It does, it feels like a dream at this point. How close could we get?

Dan Tehan: Oh, look, we want to work on it, Karl, and we think it’s really important. We’ve obviously put in place arrangements with New Zealand – that’s a one-way bubble at the moment but Singapore have also expressed an interest, so I put to them that it would be great if we could extend the bubble between New Zealand, Singapore and Australia. They’re interested to work on that. I’m hoping to have further discussions when I travel to Singapore in the next couple of months and if we can continue to get the vaccine rollout right here in Australia, they continue to do what they’re doing so well there with their vaccine rollout in Singapore, I’m optimistic that we might be able to get something up and running by the middle of the year.

Allison Langdon: We’re also seeing too that returning Australians could do their quarantine in Singapore before coming home. Is that accurate? And, also, this morning, that Fiji’s put up their hand to be part of this?

Tehan: Well, in the first instance, what we’re looking to do is to get a travel bubble up and operating. Obviously, as the vaccine rolls out, we take the medical advice as to whether we’ll need to have people quarantine or not – depending on how well the vaccine goes – and that’ll be up to the medical advice. But, very much in the first instance, what we’re looking at is to see whether we can get that travel bubble up and going, if we could, with New Zealand and Singapore. Then we look at other destinations which are safe, as well, and one of the keys to this is going, making sure that we can get that vaccine passport validated – we know that it will stand up to integrity – and if we can get that up and running, as well, hopefully then we will see the expansion of these travel bubbles – New Zealand, Singapore and then, if we could with Fiji, that’d be wonderful as well.

Stefanovic: You and I were at a Tourism Australia gathering a couple of weeks ago and one of the biggest issues, as you know, with tourism operators, is trying to get rid of this two-weeks’ quarantine. The balance between that and keeping Australia safe is pretty significant, obviously, and it’s a very difficult balance. But, how close are we moving towards that, do you think, realistically?

Tehan: Well, that’s the hope, Karl, that as we get the vaccine rolled out, globally, we would be able to move to not having people have to do that two-weeks’ quarantine. Now, we will take the medical advice on that. Obviously, we’re watching, monitoring and looking at the vaccine rollout globally to see the impact it’s having, especially on the spread of COVID-19. But, that’s the dream come true, to be able to get to the stage where we’re able to validate the people who’ve had the vaccine, and then not have that two-weeks’ quarantine. We’re not there yet, but that would be a great outcome if we could get there.

Langdon: So, what happens in regards to that, with the passport, and being able to prove that you’ve been vaccinated? Is that something that’s easy to establish?

Tehan: Well, that’s what we want to work with countries on and we think if we can get that established and in place with New Zealand, if we can get it established and in place with Singapore, that we know that people have a valid certificate to say that they have been vaccinated, that will enable that two-way travel to occur, hopefully without quarantining down the track. And, that’s what we’re working on at the moment. We really want that digital vaccination passport up and running, operating, and in a way that we know that we can trust it.

Stefanovic: Yeah. Operators need it, don’t they? Certainly, right now. Meantime, the half-priced flights program isn’t going down well with some of your own colleagues. I mean, Barnaby Joyce isn’t happy this morning. He’s like a pebble in a sandshoe, isn’t he, Barnaby Joyce?

Tehan: Yeah. Look, it’s always easy to be a naysayer on these things but, the thing is, this was all about building confidence and getting people moving again. And, look, what we’ve seen is remarkable bookings when it comes to the airlines. They saw, in some instances, a 40 per cent increase in bookings, and this is before the program’s even rolled out at the beginning of March [sic]. So, Karl, I know you agree, because you were there at that conference where it was so wonderful to see so many people from the tourism sector together again. What we need to do is get people moving again, have the confidence to travel. And, we saw a real boost in people’s want and will to travel after that announcement last week, and we want people to go to as many destinations as possible. We have the most wonderful tourism destinations in the globe and, you know, I’ve only begun to partly explore some of them in my role as Australia’s Tourism Minister but every Australian should be taking this opportunity over the next four to six months to say, ‘This is where I want to go in Australia,’ and book, do it. We need people to convert intention into actually doing it – and what we were doing last week was encouraging people to do that.

Langdon: Well, let’s hope with the case in Brisbane and in Sydney that we saw over the weekend that we don’t see interstate borders shut again, so that we do have people travelling. But, before you go, Minister, do you have 10 minutes to go to today’s March 4 Justice rally?

Tehan: Look, it’s an incredibly important march that’s taking place today. I’ve said to my staff that they all should feel free to go. If there is anyone who’s up from my electorate in Western Victoria, I’ll do what I normally do and I’m more than happy to meet with them. I haven’t been approached by anyone yet, but in the next two or three hours, if anyone who’s up from Western Victoria from my electorate who wants to meet with me, I will do that. My mother was very much a trailblazer in terms of setting up workplaces, as a lawyer in a small country town, then as a Member of Parliament. This is something that I take incredibly serious. We want Parliament House to be an exemplar when it comes to being a safe workplace. I know all my colleagues want that across the political divide so I’ll be very keen, if there’s anyone up from my electorate who wants to meet with me, to do so.

Langdon: Good stuff. Alright, Minister. We really appreciate your time this morning, and we’ve got our fingers and toes crossed that we get the travel bubble up and running in July too.

Stefanovic: Yeah.

Langdon: Sooner than we were hoping. Thank you.

Stefanovic: Thanks, Dan.

Tehan: Thanks.

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