Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast

  • Transcript
Subjects: JobKeeper, Tourism and aviation support package, Support for the tourism sector, Andrew Laming, Cabinet reshuffle.
26 March 2021

Michael Rowland: In fact, we’re told we can bring Dan Tehan into the conversation now. Minister, a very good morning to you.

Dan Tehan: Morning Michael and great to see you in Cairns. I was up there a month ago. It’s a beautiful spot and aren’t we lucky we have all these wonderful destinations right across Australia, and what we need at the moment is Australians visiting those destinations and spending big.

Rowland: Absolutely, a stunning morning here in Cairns. But, also, what the local politicians here say they need — and we’re talking both parties, including the Liberal Party leader David Crisafulli, who signed a joint open letter to the Prime Minister with the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk — they want, both parties want, a targeted extension of JobKeeper for tourism businesses in places like Cairns. Will that happen?

Tehan: Look, JobKeeper will end at the end of the month and it’s done its job. It’s been temporary and targeted. It’s the largest ever single government support offered in our history, and what we do want to do is be able to provide some targeted support to the tourism industry, and that’s what we’re doing through our aviation and tourism package, where we’ve got discounted flights starting at the beginning of April. And, even before that, what we’ve seen is a 40 per cent increase in bookings on our airlines for people to be travelling to destinations. And, the key thing that the Queensland State Government can do is make sure that it keeps its border open, because what we want to do is produce confidence. We want people to have the confidence to be able to travel, because that is the single biggest thing which is holding tourism back in this nation at the moment. And, if we could get the Queensland Premier and the Opposition Leader out saying that borders would be closed as a last resort, that would be a wonderful achievement because it would give people the confidence to travel to Queensland, and when they travel — and this is something I want to ask all Australians to do — spend like you spend when you’re overseas. Dig into your pocket and make sure you’re going out, going to a restaurant, going on that attraction or that tour, because if we do that, that’s the single biggest way that we can help support our tourism industry at the moment.

Rowland: The Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy said this week that up to 150,000 jobs will go next week when JobKeeper is pulled out from the Australian economy. It has done a great job, of course, in preventing the economy from going over the cliff, but what is the Government doing to prepare Australians for that potentially large and devastating number of jobs going?

Tehan: Well, what the Secretary Treasury also said is that JobKeeper needs to end, that it’s starting to provide distortions into the Australian economy, and it was a temporary and targeted program, and what we need to be now doing is making sure that we are providing the jobs, and that those jobs in those areas where there are shortages, we can encourage people to take that work. So, it is a vast, vast program, JobKeeper — over $90 billion in economic support. We have to end it. It’s the right thing for us to do and what we now need to do is look at the other support measures that we’ve got in place to help and support those industries that need it. So, for instance, our aviation and tourism package is there to support our aviation and tourism sector. We’ve also got our direct assistance which we are providing to travel agents — $130 million package in the last quarter, another $130 million package this quarter. So, that will be over a quarter of a billion dollars in support for our travel agents. We’ve got our package for zoos and aquariums that has been extended, our package for business events that has been extended. We’ve also got our building programs which will also assist the economy through this transition. So, we’ve put transition packages in place to help us as we come off JobKeeper, and the Government will continue to monitor and assess how that’s going, and, obviously, with the Budget coming up, there’ll be more measures in the Budget as needed.

Rowland: Okay. While I’ve got you, on another issue, we are in Queensland and Brisbane Liberal MP Andrew Laming’s in a lot of trouble this morning for allegedly harassing women online. He’s been forced to apologise. Why does this sort of thing keep happening?

Tehan: Well, Andrew Laming has unreservedly apologised, that’s the right thing for him to have done. And, what we all need to be doing, all MPs, no matter what your political persuasion, is just be focusing on getting on and doing your job. We’re coming out of a pandemic. We need to be focused on the Australian people, helping them come out of this pandemic. Make sure we’re getting that vaccine rollout right across the nation, making sure that we’re supporting our communities as we come out of the pandemic-induced recession. That’s what we should be all doing, focusing on our jobs.

Rowland: Okay. And, just before you go, you sit around the Cabinet table. Are you, Dan Tehan, completely comfortable with Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds, as the Prime Minister has now indicated, staying in Cabinet?

Tehan: Yes, I am, and I look forward to both of them returning. They’ve done very good jobs in their Cabinet roles and I look forward to them coming back to work.

Rowland: Okay. Dan Tehan, Tourism Minister, thanks for joining us.

Tehan: Thanks, Michael.

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