Interview with Madeleine Morris, ABC News Breakfast

  • Transcript
Subjects: Reopening of Australia's border to international tourists
21 February 2022

Madeleine Morris: We're joined now by federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan, who's at Sydney Airport and has not come underdressed for the party. What have you got there Minister Tehan?

Dan Tehan: Madeline, it is a party out here, believe you me. There's music playing, there's smiles on people's faces. They'll be dancing soon, I'm sure. I've got a koala, a Tim Tam and a jar of Vegemite to just grab those visitors as they come off the plane. You can imagine the delight as they've done 18, 19 hours of long haul having me approach them with a koala, a big smile, a Tim Tam and a jar of Vegemite. But they've entered into the spirit of things as well. It's just a great day.

It's great to be out here. And I've got to say, I was here at a little after 6 o'clock. There were people here setting up who'd been here since 5.30. And everyone just had huge smiles on their faces. Everyone's just entered into the spirit of it because it's just fantastic to be fully reopened to the rest of the world, and for those 660,000 people employed in our tourism industry it's a great day.

And I've got to say everyone, even the journalists are saying isn't it great to be covering good news. It's party time out here and I'm loving every single minute of it.

Madeleine Morris: I can only imagine the delight of those people getting off 18 hours on a plane to come and see you walking towards them with a koala and some Tim Tams! What sort of numbers are you expecting? What are we expecting to come over the coming months? Because we've only got 50 flights out of pre-Covid 300 arriving today. How long is that going to take to ramp up?

Dan Tehan: Look, I think there'll be a very strong rebound in our tourism market. Our wonderful experiences haven't gone away. The wonderful warmth of the welcome that Australians give our international visitors hasn't gone away. We've seen it here this morning. I was in India 10 days ago signing an MOU with their government. That was our fastest growing market leading into the pandemic. The demand from there I think will rebound very strongly.

You look at New Zealand, it's visiting friends, family and relatives which drives that market. That's our second biggest market. Those friends, family and relatives haven't disappeared; they're still there. So I think we're going to see a very, very strong rebound.

Obviously China, which was our number one market will be difficult while they've got their zero Covid policy. But as soon as that changes, Tourism Australia have been doing a lot of work to make sure that we will be ready to encourage those Chinese visitors back. So, look, still some tough yards ahead, but I'm very confident we'll get a very, very strong rebound.

Madeleine Morris: Yeah, there has been a lot written about our reputational damage because of this Fortress Australia tag line that we've seen. Do you think that that is going to take some while to actually break down as well? Because it's going to take a lot more than a packet of Tim Tams and a jar of Vegemite to try and fix that?

Dan Tehan: It will, but I've got to say, I did a lot of travel last year and I met with tourism representatives in a lot of countries, and how they viewed what Australia had done through the pandemic was very positive. We're regarded as having dealt with the pandemic as well as any other country in the world. Those high vaccination rates of nearly 95 per cent, the way the economy has been able to stay strong throughout the pandemic. So I think there will be a very, very strong rebound. And, as I've said, our wonderful, wonderful experiences haven't gone away. Our wonderful locations, you know, in my electorate, Great Ocean Road, Twelve Apostles still there. Some of the best coast line in the world.

So I think we will see a very, very strong rebound. And I think our reputation internationally has stood up extraordinarily well and I think it bodes well for our tourism sector going forward.

Madeleine Morris: There will be so many people watching at home who, like you, are really excited. There will be a couple of people who are a little bit trepidatious, who felt secure having our closed boarders. Visitors do have to be double vaccinated in order to come in, but are you expecting any uptick in Covid cases because of these arrivals?

Dan Tehan: Look, we're very confident. Our health officials told us now was the right time to fully reopen because they said that we can manage it quite easily with our health response. So we've listened to that health advice right throughout this pandemic. Their advice was very clear – it is now safe to reopen the international borders.

And we've got to make sure that other things can happen to the economy, so if we don't have those 660,000 jobs in our tourism industry, that impacts and it hurts people in other ways, so their clear advice was now is the time to reopen. It's safe to do so and that's why we're here doing this. And that's why I can tell you there's so many smiles on so many faces here at Sydney Airport this morning.

Madeleine Morris: It is great to see all of those smiles. Minister Dan Tehan, thanks so much for joining us this morning. And good luck handing out those Tim Tams and Vegemite jars.

Dan Tehan: I will and if you want to pop down later or fly up later there's a Tim Tam, a Vegemite jar and a koala for you, Madeline, as well.

Madeleine Morris: Thanks so much. Keep some aside for us.


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