Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today Show

  • Transcript
Subjects: Support for the tourism sector, ‘Holiday Here This Year’ tourism campaign, Border closures
08 February 2021

Karl Stefanovic: Some sectors are seeing record bookings, that's the good news. Cut-price cruising is leading the charge, believe it or not. But industry leaders warn there is still an awful long way to go. Joining us now from Cairns in Far North Queensland is Minister for Tourism Dan Tehan. Dan, good morning to you. For an industry crippled by this pandemic, there are welcome signs, aren't there?

Dan Tehan: There are welcome signs, and yes, we're seeing rebounding, as you said, when it comes to cruising, and also domestic tourism, especially within about three-hour drives of the cities, has really bounced back strongly. And, if we could get some consistency around border closures, get a hotspot definition, that would really help confidence as well, and places like Port Douglas – where I was last night talking to tourism operators – and here in Cairns, will really bounce back as well. So, there are things that we can do to really support our tourism industry, and from the Commonwealth Government we want to make sure that we're there helping and supporting them through this really difficult time at the moment.

Stefanovic: I'll get to that in just a second. But, in relation to cruising, the Ruby Princess saga led to a major heartbreak here. Do Aussies, should Aussies feel safe taking up these offers now?

Tehan: Oh, well, the cruise industry has done a lot of work to make sure that cruising now is COVID safe. They've put protocols in place, so people should be confident to be able to go and book cruises. They also should be confident to be able to book, you know, wonderful vacations right across this nation, because we've got so many wonderful places to see – whether you're doing it as part of a cruise around our coastline, or going to visit just the wonderful places right across the nation. I mean, our backyard is just a wonderful place to explore, and it's why we put $5 million into that, you know, travel here in Australia campaign, to make sure people are making sure that during the COVID lockdown they're getting out and exploring our nation.

Stefanovic: It's a brilliant campaign. In terms of cruising, though, would you go on a cruise?

Tehan: Look, I've never been on a cruise and I think it's something that I'll explore doing once I finish this job. But, at the moment I'm sort of, it's a bit hard to book a cruise with any certainty for me, because you're never quite sure what you'll be doing one day to the next.

Stefanovic: Good out, good out. Look, the reality is here, too, look you mentioned how businesses are struggling in Far North Queensland. I know that only too well. There's a long way to go, isn't there? JobKeeper ends in March. I think at last count, and correct me if I'm wrong, but there were more than 3,000 businesses, 3,000 businesses in Cairns alone utilising JobKeeper. What are you going to do for the shortfall there?

Tehan: Yeah, so, I'm up here talking to the industry. I was at Port Douglas last night. And, can I just say though, I was really pleased that you were broadcasting – I think your weather – from there this morning. You're doing your bit. We want to make sure we continue to do our bit. So, I met with the operators up there. They told me their stories, what they think they need. I'm here in Cairns today. I'll be talking to the industry here. I'll be on the Gold Coast and the Whitsundays also this week, talking to the tourism operators there. I want to get a really good sense from on the ground of what they need, and then I'll be taking that back to my colleagues and we'll be looking to see what we do post-JobKeeper to help and support the tourism industry.

Stefanovic: You seemed to be intimating last week that Annastacia Palaszczuk – and you know how incredibly popular she is in Queensland – you seemed to be intimating that she needs to do her bit in order to keep receiving the JobKeeper support. What exactly do you mean by that?

Tehan: Well, what would be great is if all the state premiers and territory leaders could come together and we could get one single hotspot definition. Tourism Australia did a survey …

Stefanovic: … But, isn't that your job?

Tehan: Well, that is my job, is to try and bring them together, but ultimately, they've got to be the decisionmakers, because ultimately, the responsibility for those decisions lies with every state and territory. So, what we want is a uniform hotspot definition right across the nation. Tourism Australia, their most recent survey, showed it's not the COVID that is preventing people from travelling at the moment, it's lack of confidence due to border closures. So, we have to address that, and that was something the Port Douglas tourism sector was telling me last night – please do everything you can to try and get this consistent approach around border closures, because that's killing confidence and people wanting to travel, especially interstate, at the moment.

Stefanovic: Look, I wish you all the very best in supporting those businesses in Far North Queensland, businesses that rely a lot on international travel they just don't have at the moment. So, whatever you can to help them through the next six months is going to be badly needed. Dan, always good to talk to you. Thanks for your time today.

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