Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Women’s March 4 Justice, Newspoll, Travel bubble with Singapore, Support for the tourism sector, Tourism and aviation support package
15 March 2021

Michael Rowland: For more, let’s bring in the Tourism Minister Dan Tehan. Minister, good morning.

Dan Tehan: Morning, Michael.

Rowland: I’ll get to the proposed bubble in just a moment, but I want to start with the Women’s March 4 Justice at Parliament House today, and marches across the country as well. One of the organisers, Janine Hendry, was on the show earlier. She has turned down the Prime Minister’s offer to meet her and other organisers in his office. Instead, she says, the Prime Minister should come out and show women the respect they deserve and meet them. Should he?

Tehan: Well, look, the Prime Minister has obviously made an offer to meet with the organisers. I just saw that Janine was up here in the Press Gallery before, talking to the Deputy Prime Minister. So, the Government is very keen to sit down and talk with Janine, and hopefully she’ll be able to arrange or find a time to be able to do that with the Prime Minister.

Rowland: Well, no, but I, as I just said, she has said no. Instead, she wants the Prime Minister to come outside, with his security guards, obviously, and speak to the protesters. Why won’t he do that?

Tehan: Well, the Prime Minister has said that he, what he normally does, and it’s the normal way that he does these things, is that he offers an invitation to meet with the people who are marching and, so, if they want to come and meet with him they can. He can’t be running his diary in a way that he has to be going in and out of the building the whole time. Now, he said he takes this march …

Rowland: … Shouldn’t the importance of this issue force changes in any Prime Minister’s diary?

Tehan: Well, it is an incredibly important issue, Michael, and it’s one that the Government is taking incredibly serious, and we’ve put in place processes to deal with this. We all, on both sides of politics, want to make sure that the workplace in Parliament House is a safe one, and there’s a process that’s been set up. As we’ve seen, on both sides of politics, we need to be doing more to make sure that the workplace here is safe, and it’s one that has been taken incredibly serious, we’re acting on, and we want to make sure that we’re an exemplar here in Parliament House in Canberra in terms of a safe workplace.

Rowland: Okay. You’re clearly very concerned about it. So, will you, Dan Tehan, go outside and listen to what the women have to say?

Tehan: Well, what I’ve said to everyone in my office is that if they want to go out and participate at this march, then they can …

Rowland: … But, will you go outside?

Tehan: Well, I’ll be following the normal processes that I follow. If there’s anyone from my electorate who is up here for the march and wants to meet with me, I will do so – and that’s the process that I follow with any of these types of marches. If anyone from my electorate is here and wants to meet with me, I will do so. So far, I haven’t heard from anyone, but if in the next few hours I do, I will sit down, meet with them and talk to them about this issue. Michael, I had a mother who created workplaces, someone who was very much a trailblazer when it came to these things and I want to make sure that I’m doing everything I can in my power to make sure that the workplace here is an exemplar, and I will continue to work with all my colleagues across the political divide to make sure it is.

Rowland: Okay. This march comes on the day that Newspoll shows Labor has leapt to an election-winning lead, 52 to 48, on a two-party preferred basis. Is this a reflection, in your view, of the Prime Minister badly misreading the national mood in the way he has responded to rape allegations?

Tehan: Well, Newspolls, as you know, come and go each month. The most important thing that any Government can be doing is focusing on the important issues that are facing this nation. Now, we’ve come through a pandemic. We’re now rolling out the most complex vaccination program that this nation has ever seen – that is an absolute key focus. Making sure we deal with the economic recovery is a key focus and then dealing with these very important issues, as they arise, like the, making sure that all our workplaces are as safe as they possibly can – that will be a priority of the Government. So, these will continue to be our focus, the things that really matter to Australian people on the ground.

Rowland: Okay. Now, let’s go back to that vaccination bubble with Singapore. July – is that being a bit too ambitious? Given where our vaccination rollout is at the moment?

Tehan: Well, what the Government is very keen to do is to continue to work with countries to see if we can set up travel bubbles. Obviously, we’ve got a one-way bubble with New Zealand at the moment. We’d like to see that extended so that it’s a two-way travel bubble. Now, it’ll depend on the rollout of the vaccine and, also, how we go based on the medical advice with the rollout of the vaccine, and what the signs are, and what the research is showing with regards to what it’s doing to level of transmission. Now, it would be very good to be able to extend that further, and Singapore, obviously, has dealt with the pandemic in an exemplary fashion, as well. So, I’ve already had some discussions where I raised the issue of whether, if we’re able to successfully extend a travel bubble with New Zealand, whether we could look to do so with New Zealand [sic] as well. And, I’m looking forward, hopefully, to travelling to Singapore in the next couple of months to be able to extend those conversations.

Rowland: And, just before we go, putting your Tourism Minister’s cap on. Craig Laundy, a former colleague of yours, former Liberal Minister who runs, as most of our viewers would know, a pretty big pub and hotel empire, says that lots and lots of jobs are on the line once JobKeeper is removed at the end of the month. We’re hearing the same thing from hospitality operators, from tourism operators, right around the country. At the start of the pandemic, your former colleague as well, Mathias Cormann, the then Finance Minister, said, ‘Ultimately, we’re not going to be able to save every single business or every single job.’ How many businesses, how many jobs, is the Government expecting to go under, come March 28?

Tehan: Well, we’re trying to save all the jobs in the tourism industry and that’s why we announced the package last week which, with some airlines, has seen a 40 per cent spike in bookings. So …

Rowland: … But, tourism operators on the ground say they’re not getting any of that joy. It’s a sugar hit for the airlines, but they’re not happy with it.

Tehan: Well, Michael, you get your discount airfare, you go to a destination, you have the confidence to travel, you spend in the pub, you stay overnight, you visit one of the wonderful attractions that we have right across this nation. This is about getting people moving, this is about putting confidence in people to book those airline tickets and get travelling again —and we’ve seen it happen. We’ve seen consumers vote with their feet last week, and that’s before the discount fares have even rolled out, which will start at the beginning of March [sic]. So, as I’ve said before, to everyone listening today – do your patriotic duty, book that fare, take that trip, visit a wonderful tourism destination, spend money like you would overseas. So, put your hand in your pocket, don’t be a penny-pincher, and spend like you would overseas and really help and support our tourism industry. That is the best way we can support jobs in the tourism industry right across this nation.

Rowland: We’ll leave it there. Dan Tehan, thanks for joining us this morning.

Tehan: Thanks, Michael.

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