Interview with Patricia Karvelas, ABC Afternoon Briefing

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: JobKeeper, Support for the tourism sector, Australia-China relationship, Myanmar, Kevin Andrews
01 February 2021

Patricia Karvelas: I'm joined now by the Minister for Trade and Tourism Dan Tehan. Minister, welcome.

Dan Tehan: Pleasure to be with you, Patricia.

Karvelas: If the Federal Government is now backing short, sharp lockdowns, like the one happening in Perth, you also supported the one happening in Adelaide in South Australia, how can you really switch off JobKeeper in March? Shouldn't it be available for these sorts of scenarios?

Tehan: Well, we support putting public health and public safety as a priority, as the number one priority through this pandemic, and we've done it right through this pandemic and we'll continue to do so. But, one of the things we've also asked for is whether states and territories could get a uniform approach to how they go about closing their borders or locking down certain parts of their communities as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. And, that's something we'll still ask for and work with them to achieve, because the more consistency we can get right across the nation the better it will be, not only for communities, but for businesses, and, in particular, for the tourism sector.

Karvelas: There's no doubt that tourism is going to be hit hard. Are you looking at specific rescue package for the tourism industry?

Tehan: Well, we've said all along that we would consult with the sector, and that's what I've been doing. I consulted with them before Christmas, between Christmas and New Year, and have been doing so this month, to find out exactly how they're being impacted. The difference between those who are reliant on international tourism, which, obviously, has been hard hit, and will continue to be hard hit — probably for the rest of this year — unless we can get bubbles up and running, versus those who are in the domestic tourism sector, where, in many places we've seen green shoots and actually quite strong rebound with domestic tourism. So, we'll continue to consult with the sector, look at the data, and then we'll have more to say on this in the coming weeks and months.

Karvelas: Okay. So, taking from that that the package would only be for internationally exposed tourism?

Tehan: Look, we're looking at all the data and the impact across the board on the tourism sector. And, then we've, obviously, got to look at how we can make it targeted, how we can make it temporary. Because, our hope is, especially with the vaccine being rolled out globally, that we'll be in a position to see international tourism restart hopefully by this time next year, at the latest. So, we'll look at all the different measures, all the different impacts, and, in particular, the data that we'll be getting from Treasury, from Austrade, and from the industry itself.

Karvelas: But, do you accept that domestic tourism is still hurting and needs help, too? I mean, look at the case in WA. People clearly can't go to WA. Some of them returning home, or just visiting. Many going for holidays, too. So, clearly there are ongoing stings because of these lockdowns on domestic tourism.

Tehan: No question about that. And, some of the border communities between New South Wales and Victoria were hurt by the closing of borders around the Christmas-New Year period. Some of our capital cities have been impacted by border closures, sorry, some of our major state and territory capital cities have been impacted by border closures. So, this is something that we continue to monitor and continue to monitor closely. And, that's part of the data that we're getting and that will be part of the assessment we'll ultimately take as to what sort of continued assistance is required, if that is what we come to the decision that that is what is needed.

Karvelas: China's Global Times labelled the letter you sent your counterpart a stunt and accused you of whining when you didn't get a response. Do you see that as a bad sign?

Tehan: Look, what I want to do is I want to engage constructively with the Chinese Government — and I want to do that in a formal way. That is why I have written to the new Chinese Trade Minister, and it's why I've said I'm happy to be patient in waiting for a response. There will be a lot of commentary, but I want to make sure that the conversation that we have is one which is respectful and one which is done between the two governments. So, I will wait for a reply. In the meantime, obviously, there is a lot we can be doing, including working together in the WTO. And, we had a ministerial meeting of 30 trade ministers on Friday night, my Chinese counterpart was one of those ministers, and on that meeting, on that call there was a lot of consensus around the need for us to reform the WTO, and I'm sure all ministers from right across the globe will hopefully work towards that end, and in other areas where we can work co-operatively together I look forward to doing that as well.

Karvelas: Would Australia consider reimposing trade sanctions against Myanmar if the military takes over from the democratically elected government?

Tehan: Look, that's not something that we've considered at this stage. The Foreign Minister has put out a statement, obviously expressing our deep concern as to the events which have taken place in Myanmar. We'll continue to monitor and watch those. And, as those events transpire, we'll have more to say on that. But, at this stage, we have obviously expressed our deep concern and are calling on everyone to make sure that democracy is not only respected, but that the elections which occurred — which everyone says were thorough, were genuine — that they are respected and the rightful government can take its place.

Karvelas: Do you see a role for trade sanctions in these sorts of issues?

Tehan: Well, look, Patricia, it's still very early on and we're still waiting to get all the facts. And, I think one of the things that you have to do is be very considered with the approach that you take to these types of things. So, what we've got to do is just stop, pause, see what is going on, and then, once we're across all the details, we can make further decisions.

Karvelas: Just finally, did you make calls on behalf of your colleague Kevin Andrews to try and, you know, ensure that he was pre-selected for his own seat again?

Tehan: Look, my, the way that I go about doing my job is that I very much focus on what is in front of me, in terms of my portfolio and my electorate. And, that keeps me well and truly busy enough.

Karvelas: Okay. But, is there a message now to incumbent MPs that, you know, you're not safe?

Tehan: Look, the way I have always conducted myself, both in my electorate and in my roles as a Minister, is that politics is a very funny game, it can change very quickly. And, the best thing you can do is be working hard every single day and putting your case to the voters of your electorate as to why they should re-elect you, and also within your party, as to why you should be given, given a position, if that's what you are given. So, hard work and focusing on the job has always been the way I have gone about it and will continue to go about it.

Karvelas: Thanks for joining me.

Tehan: Thanks, Patricia.

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