Interview with Michael Rowland, Breakfast ABC News

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Australia's new travel campaign; AUKUS; Australian-French relations.
05 November 2021

Michael Rowland: International travel is now back on the cards for many Australians, but a new Federal Government campaign is today urging holiday makers to look a little closer to home.

Zoe Foster-Blake: Hey what did you get for Andy?

Hamish Blake: Nothing, yet. But I do know people we can steal ideas off. Matty, what’s your best gift idea?

Matty: How about a boat ride you’ll never forget?

Zoe Foster-Blake: Like a cruise?

Hamish Blake: What is it? Sort of like a rugged survival thing?

Hannah Gadsby: Yeah, totes rugged. [Phone rings.]

Johnathan Thurston: Nah.

Hamish Blake: Good on you, legend. See you later, mate. That’s a good one.

Zoe Foster-Blake: He didn’t answer, did he?

Michael Rowland: Looks fabulous. That campaign is being launched today. The Minister for Trade and Tourism, Dan Tehan, joins us now from Melbourne. Minister, good morning. It’s a great ad and clearly lots of tourist operators around Australia are very keen for the business.

Dan Tehan: That’s right, Michael, it is. We’ve been gifted living in the best country in the world and what a great thing to be able to do is to give friends, families a gift of travel this Christmas — and that’s what this ad is all about. We’ve obviously been through a really tough couple of years and to be able to get out at Christmas now, we’re hitting that 80 per cent vaccination rate, and I’d just encourage all Australians, that if you get the opportunity give someone that you know, that you love, a trip this Christmas, or an event, or an experience. They’ll love it and you will be doing the 600,000 people who work in our tourism industry a big, big favour.

Michael Rowland: What’s the state of the domestic tourism industry? It’s been on the ropes in some states more than others over the past 18 months so what are industry leaders telling you about how close to the brink many businesses are?

Dan Tehan: Oh, look, it was a really tough time for them over the last 18 months and I don’t think there’s really been domestic tourism in any state or territory which hasn’t been impacted. But what they’re telling me now is that there’s huge confidence returning to the industry. Obviously, the opening up of the international border is helping those who are relying on international tourists see booking come back, and domestically we’re seeing very, very strong numbers begin to return. And if we can all make sure that we encourage that by supporting our tourism operators over this Christmas and summer break, then I think we’re going to see a very strong rebound for our tourism sector.

Michael Rowland: And helping to achieve the end of more domestic travel, you must be really happy at the full reopening overnight of the New South Wales and Victorian border.

Dan Tehan: It is. It’s great news that we’re starting to see those state borders come down, and I think all Australians will greatly, greatly appreciate that, because there will be no better Christmas present for as many Australians to be able to travel freely within our own country, to visit loved ones for Christmas. And the fact that New South Wales and Victoria have led the way overnight is great news and, hopefully, we’ll see more state borders come down over Christmas, and then the rest of them not long after, because I know all Australians would want to be able to travel freely within our own country, like we used to before the pandemic.

Michael Rowland: Okay. Just putting your Trade Minister’s cap on for the moment, how worried are you about potential economic and trade blowback from France over the subs scrap?

Dan Tehan: Well, look, I think when you look at our economic relationship with France, and from the recent trip that I had there, we’ll see the economic relationship continue. It’s actually one which is in France’s advantage. We take about over $5 billion of exports via France. We send about over a billion to them. There’s a very strong investment relationship, and in all the meetings that I had, the French investors were still looking to Australia as a great opportunity to invest. I know the same is for Australian investors here. So, I think we’ll see the economic relationship continue as normal. Obviously, the diplomatic relationship, we want to make sure we get that back on an even keel and we will be doing what we can to achieve that.

Michael Rowland: You’re a former diplomat as well, Dan Tehan. Have you seen a worse prime ministerial trip overseas in recent memory?

Dan Tehan: Look, Michael, when a country makes a tough decision which is about protecting its national interests and its security interests, those tough decisions mean that you’ve got to stand up for your national interests, and they can be really tough and they can cause diplomatic issues, but the most important thing is that you have got the courage to make those decisions, and that’s what the Government did. AUKUS was about us protecting our national interests. Now, we knew France would be disappointed with that decision, but we had to make a tough decision. We did it and, in the end, our country will be more secure as a result of it. That’s why we took the decision. That’s why we think it was the right decision and the correct decision. We knew France would be disappointed, but over time our strong values, that history of fighting for those values through world wars, I think will see the relationship get back on that even keel that it was before we took this decision.

Michael Rowland: Speaking of right decisions, was it a right decision by the Prime Minister or someone in his office to leak that private text message from Emmanuel Macron?

Dan Tehan: Well, look, Michael, I think the PM said it very well when he said let’s not rake over the hot coals…

Michael Rowland:…I just want to ask you a threshold values issue. Would you, for instance, leak a private text message from a Trade Minister somewhere else in the world?

Dan Tehan: Look, I’m not going to rake over the hot coals. What the best…

Michael Rowland:…We’re not talking about coals and rakes. I’m just asking you: would you leak a private text message from a counterpart overseas?

Dan Tehan: Look, Michael, as I’ve said, I’m not going to rake over hot coals. I’m not going to answer it. No good will come of that…

Michael Rowland:…You wouldn’t? Yes or no? Would you release a private text message from someone in a position of authority overseas?

Dan Tehan: As I’ve said Michael, I’m not going to rake over the hot coals. The most important thing is that we move on, we focus on those values, the importance of the relationship, the importance of the economic relationship, these are the things we need to focus on to get the relationship back on an even keel. That’s what I will be doing. That’s what I’ll be continuing to press for whenever I can have, you know, those – that engagement that I’m looking for with my French counterpart. So, I think that’s the most important thing announcement let’s move on.

Michael Rowland: Let’s move on to Tim Smith, shall we, the Victorian Liberal MP who drunkenly crashed his car last Saturday night. You’re a senior Victorian Liberal. Should he quit politics in your view?

Dan Tehan: Well, to start with, obviously, it was a grave error of judgement that Tim made. He’s admitted that. It’s obviously a time for him to reflect and that’s what he’s doing, and he will be seeking counsel about that. One of the grave things about the decision that he made is that there’s obviously very serious pandemic laws going through the Victorian State Government at the moment. Concerns have been raised by senior people in the legal fraternity here in Australia, and especially here in Victoria, that we need the resources, and we need a shadow attorney to make sure that we’re prosecuting the opposition’s policies with regards to those laws at the moment. I’ve got no doubt that he will be reflecting on the actions that he took…

Michael Rowland: And reflecting on leaving? We’re almost out of time. He blew almost three times the legal limit here, crashed into a car and a house. There was a kid in the bedroom of the house that he crashed into. Should he stay in politics?

Dan Tehan: Well, a serious error of judgement – no question about that. And it’s a time for him to reflect and that’s what he’s doing, and I’m sure that he will make a decision following on that reflection. He’s quit from the shadow Cabinet. He has quit from the position as shadow attorney and I’m sure that he’s taking that time to reflect right now.

Michael Rowland: Okay. We’ll see how that transpires. Dan Tehan, really appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

Dan Tehan: Pleasure, Michael. Ends

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