Interview with Patricia Karvelas, ABC RN Drive

  • Transcript
Subjects: protests in Melbourne; Australia-EU free trade deal; international borders.
22 September 2021

Patricia Karvelas: Trade Minister Dan Tehan joins me tonight. Welcome to the program, Dan.

Dan Tehan: Pleasure to be with you, Patricia.

Patricia Karvelas: What do you make of a member of the Coalition pushing these views?

Dan Tehan: Well, what I make of the efforts from the police is that we need to be there supporting police as they deal with this completely unacceptable violence and what we need to be doing is supporting the police as they try and deal with this. And I think from a Federal Government point of view, we've got to be working with the Victorian State Government to make sure that we can help and support them address this. We do not want to see protesters on the Shine of Remembrance. We don't want to see thuggery. We don't want to see violence and we need to be all working together to put a stop to this. And I say, as Australia's Tourism Minister, the last thing that I want to see is pictures like that from Melbourne going around the world. I mean, we want to be doing our best to make sure that how we're seen is of a law-abiding democracy, with the greatest places on the world to come and visit. It seems like that there was a complete disservice in that regard.

Patricia Karvelas: Do you think this has done us international damage?

Dan Tehan: Look, I worry about the vision going globally and the impact potentially that might have. I mean, it's not the Australia that the people know and love and want to come and visit.

Patricia Karvelas: I looked at their flags. I analyse the crowd today. I've been doing this all day. That's my job, right. A lot of them were extremists, nationalists, neo-Nazis. How concerned are you about this?

Dan Tehan: Well, I'm concerned whether they're militant trade unionists, whether they're neo Nazis…

Patricia Karvelas: Well militant trade unionists are not the same as neo-Nazis, Minister.

Dan Tehan: No, they're not. But I'm saying, Patricia, quite clearly, I don't care who they are. What we need to be doing is stopping them and especially stopping the violence. And we don't want that occurring on our streets. And that's what we need to be working together to stop. And the Prime Minister has reached out to the Premier and the Commonwealth wants to do what it can to help Victoria deal with this, because it's in no one's interest to see this sort of thing happening.

Patricia Karvelas: This is day three, why are the Government's messages not cutting through on vaccination?

Dan Tehan: Well, I think if you step back and have a look, what we are seeing is the Government's message is cutting through, when it comes to vaccination. We're seeing our vaccination rates continue to increase and we're reaching, or getting near, that 80 per cent rate in some states and territories with regards to single dose and the current forecast is we will reach that 80 per cent national rate, according to Lieutenant General John Frewan who's in charge of the vaccination roll out, well and truly before Christmas. So, I think most Australians are doing the right thing in rolling their sleeves up and getting vaccinated. And can I say, as Australia's Tourism Minister, I encourage everyone to do that: roll your sleeve up and get vaccinated, because the sooner that we can get our international borders open, the sooner that we can travel freely between our own country. And nothing would give me greater joy than Australians been able to travel freely between their own country in the lead up to Christmas, so friends, relatives and loved ones can start seeing each other across borders again.

Patricia Karvelas: Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations Senator Amanda Stoker said this afternoon, on my other programme Afternoon Briefing on the news channel, that she does not support mandatory vaccination for the construction centre sector. Do you share those views?

Dan Tehan: Well, what we've said all along is that vaccines are voluntary, but we want everyone to get vaccinated because that's the safest way that we can make sure that everyone in our community is safe. Now, my view is that where the public health orders have determined that that is necessary, and where state and territories determine that they need to put those measures in place, then they're listening to the best medical advice, based on what they're getting from their state and territory medical officials, and they're acting according to that — then there is very good reason for them to do that.

Patricia Karvelas: Okay. So you do, you respect that the advice in Victoria that the construction sector had too much Delta and that compulsive vaccination was necessary?

Dan Tehan: Well, I haven't seen …

Patricia Karvelas: Well, that's the advice.

Dan Tehan: But, I haven't seen that expert medical advice, but if that's what the expert medical advice is saying to the Victorian State Government that's what they need, to keep the community safe, and I can understand why they've acted in that way. All along through this, what we have sought to do from a Commonwealth Government point of view is work with states and territories to do what we can to keep the community safe, and obviously to keep people's livelihoods while we deal with this pandemic. And if that's the advice they're getting, then I can understand why they've acted on that advice.

Patricia Karvelas: Minister, today, you delivered a speech at the National Press Club saying a free trade deal with the EU would strengthen ties to the Indo-Pacific. European officials say Australia's decision to tear up that $90 billion submarine deal with the French will delay those talks. Do you accept that decision has made this deal much more difficult?

Dan Tehan: Well, one of the reasons I'll be travelling to Europe next week is to have discussions with Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU Trade Commissioner, and we'll be talking about the EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement. There was business as usual overnight with an intersessional meeting which took place dealing with quarantine arrangements. There will be intersessional meetings occurring with regards to discussions around geographical indications, which is a key European ask, which will take place over the next few days. So as far as I'm concerned, it's business as usual when it comes to the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement.

I can understand why France is disappointed with the decision that we've taken with regards to the submarines and the contract that we're no longer going to be entering into with regards to purchasing submarines from a French military supplier, but when it comes to the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement, in my view, it's very clear that that's in the interests of both Australia and the EU, in particular. When it comes to the EU it gives them that foothold into the Indo-Pacific, and when I was in France, when I was in Germany, and when I was in Belgium, in May, one of the clear messages I got in all countries was that Europe is looking more and more to the Indo-Pacific. They understand that's where the economic weight of the world is and they said to me, and it was a common refrain used in every one of those countries, if we can't do a free trade agreement with Australia, who in the Indo-Pacific, could we do one with? And that's why they saw it as in their national interest.

Patricia Karvelas: Minister, you're about to head overseas, as we're saying, visiting multiple countries, and you say Australian's should see the international border reopen by Christmas at the latest. So how realistic is that? And which part of that border? Do you expect that border to open in New South Wales and Victoria, just these two states?

Dan Tehan: Well, the national plan is very clear, and that's why we're so keen to see it implemented, because the Prime Minister is able to work with all state and territory leaders to put it in place. It says that once an individual state reaches 80 per cent and the national average reaches 80 per cent then we open up the international border to outbound travel, so Australians can move freely from that state or that territory outwardly. And also, we would begin to put in arrangements around travel bubbles, which obviously minimise and, in some cases, eliminate the need for quarantining when travelling between two countries, similar to what we had in place with New Zealand before, obviously, we hit this third wave. We're continuing to plan for those arrangements. But the national plan is very clear, and this is why we're so keen for all states and territories to stick to it, because it provides us with that roadmap out of this pandemic, and in particular provides that a strong ray of hope for our tourism industry and the 660,000 jobs which are dependent on our tourists.

Patricia Karvelas: So, you're realistically saying you think that there's going to be international flights and the international border is going to be open in Brisbane? Really?

Dan Tehan: Well, we'll wait and see when Queensland hits that 80 per cent vaccination rate but, definitely, I can tell you with New South Wales, Qantas are already planning, preparing those international flights…

Patricia Karvelas: How about with Victoria, given there's been a real shift here, too.

Dan Tehan: Well, obviously, as Victoria also move very quickly to hit that 80 per cent mark then I'm sure the airlines are planning as well when it comes to Victoria because our aviation sector wants to get moving as quickly and as safely again as most Australians do, and they'll be planning along those lines. And I know when it comes to New South Wales, but very much those preparations are in place, given Victoria is now racing towards that 80 per cent mark. I think you'll see the aviation sector also planning for the opening up of Victoria.

Patricia Karvelas: Thank you so much for joining us tonight, Minister.

Dan Tehan: Been a pleasure, Patricia.

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