Interview with Murray Jones, 4CA Breakfast

  • Transcript
Subjects: Tourism and aviation support package, Support for the tourism sector, Border closures
12 March 2021

Murray Jones: Well, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan joins me on the line this morning and we just saw him about a week or two ago here in Cairns and so, by phone this time. Dan, great to have you on the show again this morning.

Dan Tehan: Murray, pleasure to be with you and yeah, I think it was about three or four weeks ago now I was up there with you in the studio. I had a great trip up to Cairns and Port Douglas and, particularly, can I thank again the wonderful tourism industry up there, because the consultations that I had when I was up there were really important in how we framed the package that was announced yesterday.

Jones: Now, look, I know that, you know, in a lot of ways – and congratulations to the Federal Government – JobKeeper has been remarkably successful and I guess, you know, that's why a lot of people were pretty sad to see it go. The writing did seem to be on the wall and the Federal Government was talking about tailored and targeted packages for specific industries right across the country with the end of JobKeeper. And, I guess it was inevitable that this was to occur. So, in a lot of weeks and look, I think it's [indistinct] – I guess, there's been some areas where it's been a little bit lukewarm, but I spoke to the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday. He was very excited and I think in a lot of ways, this has been a good package for tourism, Dan?

Tehan: Yeah, look, it has been. It was designed to get people travelling again. I'll never forget we had a meeting there in Cairns and I went around and I asked people, ‘what in the end do you really want? What sort of help and support do you want?' And, there was an individual who said, ‘look, in the end, we want tourists,' and so, and that really struck a chord with me. And, I thought, well, let's see what we can do to get the tourists back, and that's what this is all about, and it's been quite incredible. Yesterday, Google saw an extraordinary spike in enquiries about flights and especially the destinations, and you'll be really pleased to know that Cairns and the Gold Coast were the two top destinations that people were enquiring through Google searches as to where they want to go for their next trip. The airlines have come on board. You will have seen, we've already seen Virgin saying, ‘we're going to back in what the Federal Government's done and we're going to put our own discount flights on' and they're going to start, I think, in the coming days — which is fantastic news. What we're really hoping is to get a really positive response from state and territory governments in backing this in and offering their own support packages as well – vouchers, whatever else that they can do to really get on board. We want a Team Australia approach and, I know, it's not the normal approach that state governments take. They tend to be a little bit more negative when it comes to what the Federal Government does but, really hoping on this, wouldn't it be great, they're out cheering, saying, ‘this is great, we're going to back it in, we're going to add to this and really support it'. And, you know, if we put confidence into people to get travelling, we've just got so many wonderful, wonderful destinations to visit. I think we'll have Australians pouring all over the country, visiting sites, spending money and really backing those 600,000 jobs in our tourism industry.

Jones: Well, look, one thing that has come up, and I guess it reflects what some people deem to be a bit of a wider political issue. And, look, you know, Michael McCormack gave me a certainly a very solid position yesterday that it was not the case. But, Queensland is a big state and the fact that Queenslanders can't take advantage of the opportunity to fly still within Queensland, say Brisbane to Cairns, has been a big issue for quite a few people, and some have suggested that there is a bit of a political motivation behind that aspect of the package, though, Dan?

Tehan: No, not true at all. I mean, Western Australia is, you know, a big state as well. The Northern Territory, South Australia are big states as well. What we've done is put destinations in Queensland on our routes and we've said to people, travel to them. Now, if the Queensland State Government wants to do something between Brisbane and Cairns or Brisbane and Townsville, nothing would make me happier. Nothing. So, you know, I say to the Queensland Premier, ‘back in what we're doing. Stick your hand in your pocket and support it and say, “We're going to do intrastate travel from a Queensland State Government point of view”'. It would just be delightful. Wouldn't it be great to have her out there saying, ‘well done, Federal Government, this is fantastic. We're going to back it in. We're going to do our own measures to support this, like the airlines are doing'. That would be wonderful and, I think, if we really took a Team Australia approach like that we'd have people travelling everywhere, having the confidence to travel. And it would mean, and this is a really important point, if we saw state and territory governments taking this approach, it would mean then, when it came to border closures, they'd be less reluctant to use it as a first resort measure.

Jones: Sure, yeah.

Tehan: And, they would use it as a last measure because what we don't want to see is the Federal Government pouring all this money in, and $1.2 billion as part of this package, only for it all to be ruined by a state government just closing the borders at the drop of a hat.

Jones: And, look, you know, we do have to work together. We've got some serious challenges ahead. And, I guess that's one of the things that we need to actually, I guess, have that unity and put some of those political divisions aside as well. If I can just briefly bring up, and I noticed a term came up this morning – you'll probably have a bit of a giggle at this, too – I believe, by the unions. And, they want to try and get an AviationKeeper, really by default, I think it is fair to say that the package that has been announced by the Federal Government really is a form of an AviationKeeper as well.

Tehan: That's right. This is about protecting jobs and this is about making sure that those jobs are not sitting dormant and idle, that people are actually working again. And, this is the best thing that we can do for the aviation sector, the tourism sector, is get people travelling again, and people want to travel. There's a real will and want out there, and that's what this is designed to do, is to give people the confidence to travel —and if we give people the confidence to travel, they'll do it. Business travel we can get going again. We can get people back in working in CBDs. That will make a huge difference. And then, the hope is, as we continue the vaccination rollout, that we'll be looking and seeing international tourists come back towards the end of this year or the beginning of next year, and that'll be great. And, I've got to say, when you step back and look at how we've dealt with this pandemic, quite remarkable. And, the key thing now is we took a Team Australia approach to dealing with it. Now, what we've got to do is take a Team Australia approach to make sure that we come out the other side better and stronger.

Jones: Dan, look, it's been great to talk to you this morning. And, just one quick question before we do wrap up, because I'm sure you've got to go. You're always a very busy man. But, after this is basically, the dust settles, it's all basically said and done. Can we look forward to further tailored and targeted packages to assist regional areas right across the country, but including Cairns, if you know this has the hit that it's been designed to do, but things then drop off after that?

Tehan: Well, the Australian Government has always said that we want to make sure that we're providing the targeted and temporary support that we need to get people through this pandemic and out the other side, and that's what this package is all about. Remembering, also, that is part of it, and this is something I'll be continuing to emphasise over the coming days. There is continued support there for our travel agents. We're extending our wonderful Business Events program and we're also extending the wonderful program for our zoos and aquariums. So, we're dipping into our pockets and doing our bit. Now, what we need is all Australians booking those flights, [indistinct], spending in our pubs and restaurants, going to those wonderful tourist attractions, taking those rides and if we do that, we're confident that the tourism industry and the broader Australian economy will be all the better for it.

Jones: Drop in and see us soon. He's the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan. Have yourself a great day. Cheers.

Tehan: Thanks, Murray.

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