Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Channel 9

Subjects: Mystery COVID case in Sydney; NZ travel bubble; Vaccine supplies in Europe; Tourism Australia ad campaign.
06 May 2021

Karl Stefanovic: Let's bring in Tourism Minister Dan Tehan now, who joins us from Canberra. Dan, good morning to you. Firstly, can I get your reaction to that mystery COVID case in Sydney?

Dan Tehan: I think what we’ve got to do is back our medical experts, and our contact tracing, and our testing, and if we do that, I'm sure we’ll be able to get on top of it. New South Wales have shown that they’ve been able to do that right throughout this pandemic. So, let's trust the officials, let’s trust the medical advice and we’ll be able to get on top of it, which is what we’ve wanted to do right throughout this pandemic.

Stefanovic: We’ll have some Premiers keenly looking at the results today. The last thing we need now is borders to close, right?

Tehan: Absolutely. We want to trust our contact tracing and our testing. And the community understands the importance of making sure that they get tested if they have got a sore throat or any symptoms, and that's what we need people to do. And if we all play our part we can keep the borders open and, as you know Karl, that's the best thing we can do for our tourism industry at the moment.

Stefanovic: [Talks over] Sure. Yeah. You know and look, there’ll be some nervous people in New Zealand too looking at this. Is the travel bubble in any kind of jeopardy at all at this point?

Tehan: The travel bubble has stood the test of time so far. We have had some small outbreaks and it's remained open, and it’s a credit to the way New Zealand and Australia officials have been able to operate the bubble. My hope is that we’ll be able to continue to do it in that way, make sure that we continue to talk, make sure our medical experts continue to share information —and so far, so good. That gives people the confidence they need to be able to travel and supports the 600,000 jobs here in our tourism industry, which is so important.

Stefanovic: The other big story this morning, of course, Dan, is the Government and these repatriation flights for Australians trapped in India, 9000 stranded, 900 considered vulnerable. When will they be brought back to, Howard Springs looks like the likely thing? When will that happen?

Tehan: As we’ve said, these are temporary measures to 15 May. The planning is being undertaken now to see how we can go about making sure that we can repatriate those vulnerable Australians —so that work is being undertaken now. And as soon as the temporary ban is lifted on 15 May, if that's when the medical experts say we can do it, then I would assume those repatriation flights would resume thereafter.

But once again, Karl, we’ll listen to the medical expert advice. That's what's got us through this pandemic. I travelled to Europe a couple of weeks ago and I can tell you that the rest of the world is looking at Australia and thinking what a fantastic job we’ve done in managing this pandemic and that's because we have listened to the expert medical advice, and that's what we’ll continue to do so as a Government.

Stefanovic: I recall talking to you before you went to Europe, you went there to try and get more vaccine supplies. How’d you go with that quest?

Tehan: We got a reassurance from the European Union that those one million vaccines that we were looking to get for Papua New Guinea, that they would not use their export control transparency mechanism to prevent those one million vaccines being shipped from the EU to Papua New Guinea. So that very firmly then put the ball in AstraZeneca's court, because we have the contract for those vaccines, those million vaccines. We are now working through with AstraZeneca to get those vaccines delivered to PNG.

Stefanovic: Does it look good, guaranteed supply, more supply for us towards the end of the year?

Tehan: Obviously we’re ramping up our own domestic production here in Australia as well, which is great. We are working with AstraZeneca to make sure that the contracts we’ve got with them, that they begin to honour those. And as you know, the situation remains fraught in PNG. The sooner we can get those one million vaccines for PNG the better. That's what we will continue to work through, with PNG. But we’re now very clear, the European Union will not stand in the way of those vaccines. So, now it's a matter of us working with AstraZeneca in Europe to get those vaccines delivered.

Stefanovic: Okay. Let's hope they play ball. Finally, the very hardworking people at Tourism Australia have just launched their latest campaign – ad campaign. Let’s take a look at it.

[Excerpt of Tourism Australia ad campaign]

Stefanovic: Dan, it's big.

Tehan: It's big, it’s big. And we want you to have a big holiday, a really big holiday. We want you to go further and stay longer here in Australia, because that’ll support those 600,000 jobs in our tourism industry. It's a great promotional campaign, they do a wonderful job at Tourism Australia, and it should inspire you to book a long holiday and go and visit the wonderful, wonderful destinations we have here in Australia.

Stefanovic: Look, I know you’re working really hard in this sector too. Well done to you and well done to everyone at Tourism Australia. Let's keep on keeping on. Good on you mate. Thank you.

Media enquiries