Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, The Today Show

  • Transcript
Subjects: Overseas travel; Melbourne protests; Queensland tourism.
23 September 2021

Karl Stefanovic: Well, Minister Dan Tehan joins us now from Hamilton in Victoria. Good morning to you, Dan. Nice to see you this morning. Look, we will get to international borders in a moment but first let's talk about those protestors yesterday in Melbourne. What's your reaction to that?

Dan Tehan: Look, it was appalling behaviour. As a former Veterans' Affairs Minister to see that type of activity taking place at the Shrine of Remembrance, I thought, was just deplorable. And not only do we have to make sure that we always respect those 102,000 Australians who have fallen fighting for our freedoms and our values, but we've also got to make sure that we never act in violence with lawlessness, and I thought the behaviour was absolutely deplorable.

Karl Stefanovic: It was reported around the world as well and, look, eventually we are going to want tourists to come back here and I think that doesn't reflect on the city as a whole because the city as a whole is just wonderful the way they have dealt with a lot of things in the last year.

Dan Tehan: Absolutely, Karl. You are spot on, and it's a point I made on radio last night. That's the last thing that Melbourne needs at the moment is footage like that being broadcast across the world. We want to be sending a message that before not too long we are going to be open again for international visitors, for people to come here to visit our wonderful, beautiful nation, to come and see places like the Grampians in western Victoria. That's what — that's the message we want to be sending and that's what Tourism Australia is working on at the moment, sending those positive messages out there that our borders are going to be open before Christmas, and we want to make sure that we are welcoming people. And we need to be sending that message that we are a welcoming country.

Allison Langdon: That is big news international borders open by Christmas. What is the plan? Are you opening to everywhere?

Dan Tehan: So, the plan is to start with outbound travel. So, for Australians traveling overseas, as long as we hit that 80% vaccination rate which we are on target to meet by Christmas and the individual state and territories at that 80% rate then outbound travel opens up. And then what we put in place for inbound travel will be consistent with our travel bubbles. Obviously with New Zealand we were able to do that quarantine free, and it would be great if we could get that up and running again. And then we are in discussions with the Pacific islands, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the US, the UK on what those travel arrangements will look like. Hopefully we will be able to have home quarantine, we will be able to limit the time of quarantine and ultimately quarantine-free travel. It could require some testing; all those discussions are in place. But the key message for Australians is keep rolling up your sleeves, keep getting vaccinated and we will get those international borders open sooner rather than later.

Karl Stefanovic: There is going to be a lot of excited people listening to you. There is a lot to work through though in just that answer there. Just with — in regards to quarantine, even coming back to seven days or even at home, that's going to vary according to different states by the looks of it, right?

Dan Tehan: Look, we will work that through with the states and territories. We have a very important trial taking place in South Australia at the moment on home quarantine. New South Wales have indicated that they want to move to home quarantining as well. And as we keep rolling out these trials the hope is also we could look at perhaps seven days in home quarantine with testing either side because the more we can limit that time in quarantine obviously the better. The better for bringing returning Australians home, the better for international students to be able to return. So, all that will be worked through with the states and territories.

Allison Langdon: I'm assuming that also means then that the caps on returning travellers is going to be eased because there is no point if you have got all these Australians leaving and they can't get back in. Is that right?

Dan Tehan: That's right. The national plan that was agreed by all state and territory leaders and the Prime Minister sets that out too, that once we hit that 80% mark those international caps get lifted. And can I say our major aviation providers are already planning for that travel. So it's great to see that Qantas and Virgin are planning for those borders to open. So all the planning is taking place and all we've got to do is just keep working towards hitting that 80% national vaccination rate.

Karl Stefanovic: Okay. In terms of some of the mechanics here as well, are you going to allow people from overseas to come in they haven't been double vaxxed? Is it going to be a hard and fast rule there at the border?

Dan Tehan: Look, what we are seeing is that the airlines are saying that they want to see people who are vaccinated. That's why we have put the vaccination certification requirements in place. So, it would seem that what the system is, that's going to be in place, is that it is going to require you to be vaccinated. Now, obviously there will be some exceptions on medical grounds et cetera, but countries are gearing up to see international travel for those who are doubly vaccinated. And that's why we are so keen to make sure that all Australians roll their sleeves up and get vaccinated because when you want to travel overseas everything we are seeing is that that's the way you are going to have to do it.

Karl Stefanovic: Okay, a couple of quick questions. Look, I know in Queensland at the moment the tourism sector in some parts is going pretty well on the Gold Coast and all the way up through the Whitsundays is going pretty well I understand. But in Far North Queensland it has been absolutely decimated. They are at 10% returns. I know the Queensland Government is asking you for help. Are you going to give them any more help?

Dan Tehan: Absolutely. We want to work with the Queensland State Government to provide help and support for the tourism industry and, Karl, even on the Gold Coast there are some of the larger theme parks are struggling. So, I've been talking with the Queensland tourism minister over the last four or five days. I actually approached him to get a sense of what was going on there in Queensland — so it was, in fact, we reached out first to the Queensland State Government — just to get a sense of whether we needed to provide more assistance. And I'm expecting us to get some very good news on that front hopefully today. If not today, tomorrow.

Karl Stefanovic: That's good. You don't want to tell us now?

Dan Tehan: I won't - I won't break it live on The Today Show this morning, mainly because we want to do it in partnership with the Queensland State Government and these things should be announced together. So - and I want to sort of respect the spirit of that.

Karl Stefanovic: No, I understand.

Dan Tehan: But you have nearly - you have nearly got an exclusive this morning.

Karl Stefanovic: Nearly is not good enough. Hey, you do a terrific job, Dan. Thanks for your time today and it looks like your sheep need shearing, so you better get to it as well.

Allison Langdon: Hop to it.

Dan Tehan: Yes, I will. Just remember everyone watching today, the Grampians of western Victoria, great place to travel to when our domestic borders open up and we are free to travel. Western Victoria, great part of the world.

Karl Stefanovic: It sure is. Absolutely stunning.


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