Interview with Neil Breen, 4BC

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Vaccine rollout; travel restrictions; Australia-UK free trade agreement.
09 September 2021

Neil Breen: My guest is Dan Tehan, Minister for Trade, Tourism, and he joins me now. And, Minister, 80 per cent vaccinations, freedom to travel. It’s a theme that I’ve been talking about for months now, but it’s really coming to a head, some states are starting to talk about international travel, but I’ve read comments from you where you really want to see states open up properly first.

Dan Tehan: Look, we want to make sure that the country opens up safely, and we want to make sure is that when we open our international border it’s safe to do so. So, that’s why the national plan is so important, and all states and territories have signed up to it, and we want to see it implemented. And, most importantly, we’re planning for that opening up, that’s why it’s so important that we make sure that we do that planning and we’re getting in place a QR code system so when people can travel overseas again they can have their vaccine certification recognised.

We’ll also have a system for when people are coming to Australia to recognise their vaccine certification, and that’s just so important, especially for our tourism industry. And as we all know, Queensland, their tourism industry is so important to our nation’s tourism industry. So, we very much want the Queenslanders as a key part of this and that’s why the national plan is so important.

Neil Breen: I always see, you know, the stories talk about, “Oh, when we’re vaccinated like New South Wales and Victoria” at the moment, it’s all about the date you’ll be able to go to the pub. I think Australians are more concerned about the date they can go see Mum and Dad again, the date they can see their brother or their sister, people – I think having a schooner at a pub is almost like a red herring. I feel that with travel – yes, people would like to go overseas, but I think people would like to travel interstate better. What I want to ask you, Dan Tehan, is Christmas — are we a realistic chance of Christmas being at least like – I don’t know – half normal in this country, or are we still going to be at us versus them everywhere?

Dan Tehan: Well, we hope so, Neil, because I agree with you. I was asked the other day where’s the first place I’d like to be able to travel to and I said what I want to be able to do is just travel freely within this nation and to be able to see my family, seamlessly. And that would be the best thing that we could aim for before Christmas. And I think we can do that. We can hit that 80 per cent vaccination rate before Christmas nationally and that means that we can get those freedoms to travel internally and the Government is planning for that. We want to make sure that the vaccination certification will work on state and territory QR codes so that you can travel seamlessly, especially when it comes to domestic aviation. So, all this we’re planning for. We’ve got the national plan in place. We want to make sure that we have that freedom to move domestically, and also internationally because, remember, also there are many Australians who want to come home to see their families for Christmas. And we want to try and make that a reality as well.

Neil Breen: One of the most interesting comments I saw yesterday came from Dan Andrews, the Victorian Premier, when he said if you’re double vaccinated that could equate to two or three days of quarantine at home with a negative test, not 14 days, two or three. Is that a reality?

Dan Tehan: Well, it’s following on from comments that the Prime Minister has made that we do want to move to home quarantine and there’s trials being undertaken at the moment in South Australia, in New South Wales and in WA on this. They’re looking at the merits of home quarantine. We think that’s the best way, especially for returning Australians from overseas to be able to come back for Christmas, is using home quarantine when you’re doubly vaccinated because that will be – it’s safe for you to be able to do that. That’s what these trials are seeking to ascertain. So, absolutely, that means we can move away from having to use hotel quarantine. It frees up spaces for many more people to be able to travel, and that’s why we’re looking at it. It’s very much part of the planning that’s going on as we seek to safely open up.

Neil Breen:  Dan Tehan, there’s a story that’s broken overnight out of the UK, and Sky News UK is reporting, that when it came to the UK-Australian trade deal the Morrison Government and yourself – because you were involved in this deal – insisted a reference to Paris Agreement temperature goals – in other words the Paris climate targets – be taken out of the trade deal and be removed from the text. Is it true, and why was it necessary?

Dan Tehan: No, so what we do in our free trade agreements and remembering these are free trade agreements, these are about goods, services, investment, trading freely between Australia and the UK — and we got a fantastic outcome both for Australia and the UK in that FTA, which we’re seeking to finalise at the moment — what we do in free trade agreements is we recognise the importance of international multilateral environmental agreements and say that where we’ve signed up to those we’re committed to them and we’ll meet them. So, this agreement recognises we’re signed up to Paris and that we’ll meet our Paris targets, which we will do hands down.

Neil Breen: Well, the UK Trade Secretary has confirmed they dropped climate targets from the deal.

Dan Tehan: So they’re never part of free trade agreements that Australia enter into. We like our free trade agreements to actually be about free trade and multilateral environmental agreements is where you negotiate emissions reduction, where you negotiate all those climate targets. That’s what we’ll be doing at Glasgow. That’s what we did at Paris. Our free trade agreements are about free trade.

Neil Breen: Did you ask them, though? Was –Australia did say to the UK, “no, we’d rather this be out”?

Dan Tehan: No, what we –

Neil Breen: It sounds like we did. It sounds like that happened.

Dan Tehan: No, what we did, and very clearly what we did, is we said this is what we include in free trade agreements, this is what we do in multilateral environmental agreements and that’s basically where the discussion went. And if you look at all our free trade agreements, that’s what we have in our free trade agreements.

We reference the multilateral environmental agreements and we say we’ve committed to them. We will honour and do everything we can to meet our agreements, which is what we’ve done with Paris, which is what we’ve done with our Kyoto targets. But our free trade agreement is about getting better access for our beef, for our sugar, for our dairy, for our rice. That’s what we did with this UK Free Trade Agreement. I can tell you what, unashamedly, that is what I was focused on was delivering for Queensland sugar growers, for delivering for their beef growers. This is what our free trade agreements are all about.

Neil Breen: Okay, Dan Tehan, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, thanks for your time on 4BC Breakfast.


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