Interview Leon Byner, FIVE AA Adelaide

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Vaccination rollout; vaccination requirements for air travel.
10 September 2021

Leon Byner: Well, let’s welcome the Federal Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan. Dan, it’s good to have you on the show.

Dan Tehan: Leon, great to be back with you.

Leon Byner: Now, international travel. We’re now getting closer to Christmas; people are planning their holidays. You’re talking about international travel restarting once 80 per cent of the adult population is fully vaccinated. Do you have a sense of when that might be?

Dan Tehan: Well look, Lieutenant General John Frewen, who is in charge of the vaccination rollout and has done an outstanding job in coordinating, is saying that that’s well and truly likely to be before Christmas that we’ll hit that 80 per cent rate nationally. And that seems to be what we’re on target to achieve. So, that’s what he’s saying. So, our hope is that we would be able to see some resumption of international travel before Christmas.

Leon Byner: Now, Qantas is saying that it wants its passengers – and this is whether it’s local passengers – interstate or overseas – they want their passengers to be fully vaccinated before they can travel on their aircraft. Do you think this is going to be the standard across all airlines in our country?

Dan Tehan: It’s possible. Ultimately, in the end, it will be up to the airlines themselves. They have to take into consideration the safety of their pilots, their aircraft crew, et cetera, so they’ll make those decisions. But both Virgin and Qantas have come out and said that they will require people to be fully vaccinated at this stage to travel on their aircraft, especially internationally. So, this is something that the government is preparing for, and that’s why we’re putting in place the arrangements that will be needed for people to be able to verify their vaccination certification through a QR code. And we’re already in the planning stage of putting that in place.

Leon Byner: So you think that as you get vaccinated you’ll get proof of the fact that you have been. Now, just to clarify this: is that one or two shots? Because, as I understand it, you need a couple of shots before it’s fully operational in terms of its effectiveness. So, you’d need two shots, wouldn’t you?

Dan Tehan: That’s right, you would need two shots. That demonstrates you’re fully vaccinated, then you’ll have your certificate, which is uploadable from your myGov account. And that will seamlessly go into a QR code which will be recognised internationally. And this is the work that we’ve been doing—and doing it so that what we do is interoperable with what other countries will put in place. And we’re doing it through an organisation which is the International Aviation Organisation so it will be recognised by many other countries.

Leon Byner: And people who come here? Will they also have to prove vaccination?

Dan Tehan: That’s right. They will have to prove vaccination as well. And we’re beginning those discussions with other countries, for instance with Singapore, to make sure that that vaccination certification recognition, that we will be able to do it, what they call interoperability with Singapore and with Australia. And we’ll be doing that with other countries as well. And those discussions have started already.

Leon Byner: So, if you haven’t been vaccinated and you want to travel internationally, are you going to be prevented from doing so?

Dan Tehan: Well, ultimately, that will be up to the airlines. But at this stage the airlines are saying for international travel that they want people to be vaccinated. So, unless there is an – you have an exemption for health reasons – the requirements at this stage from our two major airline carriers is that they want you to be fully vaccinated.

Leon Byner: All right. So when you get the vaccination, it’s likely that you’ll need to keep the proof on you in case you need to use it. And I suspect that it’s not just the airline situation where you’ll need to prove that you’ve had the vax?

Dan Tehan: No, it’s not. Many countries will want you to be able to prove that you’re vaccinated when you arrive so it will not only be for the airlines; it will be for the countries that you want to travel to. And that’s the work we’re doing. We want to make sure that you’ve got a QR code which is uploadable to your phone which will then be recognised when you arrive in a country and where you’re asked to show proof of your vaccination you’ll be able to just download a QR code on your phone which will then be recognised in this country, in that country, and show that you’re fully vaccinated.

Leon Byner: So, what’s your message to people who may be planning Christmas holidays now, particularly international travel? What’s your advice to them?

Dan Tehan: Get vaccinated. Pretty simple. We need everyone vaccinated. And the sooner we hit that 80 per cent target the sooner we can travel. And so, the more people who can get vaccinated and the quicker they can get vaccinated, the quicker we’ll be able to travel again and the ease in which you’ll be able to travel.

Leon Byner: What is the percentage at the moment? We’re looking for 80 or better. What’s the percentage at the moment of vaccinated people, do you know?

Dan Tehan: Look, just let me get – I do have those figures. So, 21,850,000* (*total doses) people have been vaccinated as of today. So, I just need – so that’s more than 40 per cent are now fully vaccinated. So, we are more than 40 per cent of the eligible population over 16 are fully vaccinated. And we have now 65 per cent with a single dose. So, we are – this is ramping up at a considerable speed.

Leon Byner: So, two things: what happens the other way where we’ve got visitors who want to come into Australia? What are we asking of them? And the next thing is, let’s say you are vaccinated, and you go overseas, what will you have to show when you come back before we let you in?

Dan Tehan: Yes, so for international tourists, for international students, for, you know, people coming here to work in our agriculture workforce et cetera, we’re working through that process – those processes at the moment. But it’s highly that if you’re fully vaccinated with a vaccine which has been fully recognised by the TGA then you will be able to come to Australia with minimal quarantine restrictions. Now, we’re working through that at the moment. It might be a period of in-home quarantine. It might require testing. And that will be based on the work we do with the health experts. But it’s likely that there will be minimum quarantine requirements. If you’re not vaccinated, then the requirement would be you’ll have to do those full two weeks of quarantine before you would be able to then be able to obviously move freely within the community.

Leon Byner: Is there such a thing at the moment as an international passport that gives you permission because you’ve been vaccinated to travel?

Dan Tehan: So, what most countries are doing is linking a QR code which demonstrates that you’ve been vaccinated to your passport. So, it’s not necessarily going to be in your passport as such, but it will be linked to your passport. So, there’s that recognition that, okay, you’re vaccination certification links to your passport and that’s the work that we’re doing and looking to get mutually recognised by other countries as well.

Leon Byner: So, if people are planning travel overseas, what’s your advice to them?

Dan Tehan: Get vaccinated.

Leon Byner: Yeah. And returning, well, if you’ve had the vaccination going out, you’ll obviously have it when you come back. So, again, you’ll be checked for that, of course, won’t you?

Dan Tehan: That’s right. You’ll be checked for that but, you know, that will be very clear that you’ve got it. And that’s why we’re trying to make this as seamless as we possibly can. We really – what we want is a modern version of what used to be your little yellow booklet which used to show that you’d had your vaccination when you were travelling to Central America or Africa. And what we want to do now is basically rather than you carry that little yellow booklet with you, this will just be on your phone and will demonstrate exactly what used to be required through that little yellow booklet.

Leon Byner: Dan, thank you for coming on today and explaining this. Good to talk to you. That’s the Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, just explaining what the situation is for travel, which know a lot of people are planning at the moment.


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