Interview with Leon Compton, ABC Radio Hobart Mornings

  • Transcript
Subjects: Tourism and aviation support package, Border closures, Car hire manufacturing, Spirit of Tasmania subsidy
12 March 2021

Leon Compton: Dan Tehan is the Federal Tourism Minister. Minister, good morning to you.

Dan Tehan: Morning, Leon. Great to be with you.

Compton: It's the question on everyone's lips, Minister, are you about to announce that Hobart will now be included on the list of eligible airports around the country to benefit from this scheme?

Tehan: So, when we made the announcement yesterday we were very clear that we had our initial destinations and that we would work with the aviation sector to see whether we needed to expand those destinations or not. Already, we've seen remarkable enquiries from the Australian people looking to help and support this program and, ultimately, help and support the 600,000 jobs in our tourism industry — so we'll continue to watch and monitor the situation. We'll continue to converse with the Tasmanian State Government but it's fantastic to see the response to this program already, and I don't think in our wildest expectations we thought we would see demand, we would see the airlines come on board. They've now announced their own discount flights ahead of the opening of our scheme on 1 April. So it's all about giving people the confidence to travel, and the one thing we're asking of the states and territories, in particular, is to make sure they're sending a loud and clear message that border closures will be used very much as a last resort, now that we've got the vaccine rolling out, we've got the contact tracing in place and our testing, because we want people to have the confidence to travel.

Compton: Minister, only 12 hours after you first announced the scheme, Darwin and Adelaide were added. Will you add Hobart?

Tehan: No, Darwin and Adelaide were already part of the allocation, and they ...

Compton: … With respect, with respect, no they weren't, on the initial map. They weren't included as part of ...

Tehan: … So, the initial guidance that went up had 13 locations, and Darwin and Adelaide were part of those. Where, we will continue to have discussions with the airlines as to whether we should have other routes added or not. 800,000 discount flights available to the Australian people come 1 April — that's 46,000 flights a week — and one of the things we're asking state and territory governments to do is to back this in and support it with their own measures, whether they put in place accommodation vouchers or vouchers to travel to the wonderful destinations within their states, and for people to have tourism experiences while they're there that they can't have anywhere else in the world.

Compton: Minister, so, how is Hobart different to Adelaide and Darwin, that have been included on this list? We're talking about capitals. Hobart is enormously connected to the tourism industry and has been struggling as a result of COVID. How is Hobart not included in this?

Tehan: So, what we did was we sat down with the airlines and we looked at where demand was really needed into locations that had been hard hit, and obviously three locations in Tasmania were identified but, as I said, we have said right along, and we will continue to do so, we're going to stay in touch with the airlines, keep talking to them, and if other routes need to be added, we will do that. And, we want to make sure that all destinations are supported. And, you will have seen already that Virgin have come out today and backed this in, and they've announced their own discount air flights — which will start ahead of what we're doing from a Federal Government point of view. And, if we can get a really good Team Australia approach to this, everyone on board, everyone making sure that they're playing their part, if they get a discount airfare, what we want them also to do is then spend that money in the pubs, in the clubs, at the restaurants, or at the, on the wonderful tourist attractions that we've got right across the country, and that helps and supports the 600,000 jobs right across this nation in our tourism industry.

Compton: Okay. Again, and we'll move on in a moment, but how did, I mean, look, here's the question at the core of everybody's thinking: Did Hobart miss out because it's not a marginal seat the Liberal Party have a significant chance of winning at the next federal election?

Tehan: No, we sat down with the airlines and we looked at where the demand was really needed to get people travelling again. That is what we did. We sat down with the airlines and said, ‘what are the locations that we really need to see demand travelling again?', and, ‘what are those locations that have been hit hard by the loss of international tourists?'. That is what this was all about. We made it very clear, very clear, yesterday that we will continue to work with the airlines, and if there are additional routes where we need to add capacity, then we will look and work with the airlines to do that but this was all about consultation, engagement, looking at those routes who really need some help and support at the moment. And, look, it would be wonderful to be able to provide assistance to every destination right across the nation. Nothing would make me happier but, obviously, as the Federal Government, we've got responsibility also to the Australian taxpayers so we sat down, saw what are the routes that really need incentivising, made it clear that if we think it's necessary, we'll add additional routes, and if I could just say to everyone in Tasmania listening this morning, please make sure you support the tourism industry in Tasmania by taking a holiday, dipping into your pocket and spending big when you do, because that will help jobs in the Tasmanian tourism industry.

Compton: This scheme runs until the end of July. What happens after that, Minister?

Tehan: Well, our hope is that people will have the confidence to be able to travel again, and if we can get people having the confidence to travel again, we continue the successful rollout of the vaccine, we know that Australians will be out there supporting our tourism industry. One of the big things that we've seen happen recently is the real lack of confidence in people's will or want to travel, and in particular, they're worried about state border closures. So, what we've done is incentivise people getting moving again, travelling again, and if we can all work together to make sure that people have the confidence to travel again – and I can tell you, there are people right across the Australian mainland who are looking and wanting to travel to Tasmania. I'm one of them. You have some of the greatest destinations across the board, some of the best golf tourism — as a keen golfer, I can't wait to get back to Tasmania and practice some golf tourism, but also some great walks, and I've been to Cradle Mountain a couple of times, have done walks there. It's beautiful. One of the other things I want to do is get to Mona. I have never been to Mona and I want to get down and visit Mona …

Compton: … We would love to come up, we would love to come up with a tourism itinerary for you, Minister. Some more questions. We're short of hire cars. What's the answer to that situation, given that it links right back to global supply chains at car hire manufacturing plants in South Korea, Japan and beyond? How significant an issue is that?

Tehan: Look, there is no doubt that global supply chains have been hit by the pandemic. We are trying to work on this and find a resolution, but I must confess, it's not easy to find a resolution to this issue. We've seen incredible demand for new cars in Australia, and that's one of the real positives. But, trying to fix some of these global supply chain issues and in particular, our ability to get ships bringing the goods that we need into Australia to be able to supply the cars that we need is one of the challenges we're facing at the moment, and …

Compton: … Dan Tehan, another question. You, the Federal Government stepped forward – in fact, it might well have been your signature that made this happen – and added extra subsidy to passengers on the Spirit of Tasmania, and then the TT-Line introduced their demand pricing scheme that meant because of the extra popularity, prices rose. Has that been frustrating for you?

Tehan: Look, what we want when we provide assistance, whether it be with the aviation sector, with the shipping sector, is we want everyone to be playing their part, and if we can get everyone playing their part, doing the right thing, that, in the end, benefits all. As you enter and go through a pandemic and seek to come out the other side, we want everyone playing their role, everyone being positive, as I've said before, we want a Team Australia approach and if everyone …

Compton: … How will you stop the airlines? Given the amount of federal subsidy going into this scheme, the airline scheme, how will you stop the airlines introducing demand pricing to boost their profits, with the extra number of calls?

Tehan: So, it's a really good question. So, what we've put in place is an integrity measure with the airlines, which will be based on February's pricing, so that we will be able to watch and monitor and make sure that they don't look to raise prices and raise profits as a result of what we're doing and, I must say, and I hand it to the aviation sector, they've sat down with the Government. They understand themselves how important it is to get Australians travelling again, to get bums on seats at planes so they've been very positive as well, and as we've seen, they've now put their own discount measures in place ahead of ours, which I think is a real positive. So, I'm confident that they understand that they've got a key role and part to play in this, and won't seek to profiteer from this.

Compton: Appreciate you talking with us this morning.

Tehan: It's been a pleasure, thank you.

Compton: Dan Tehan, Federal Tourism Minister.

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