Interview with Peter Stefanovic, First Edition Sky News

  • Transcript
Subjects: Interstate travel; national plan; international travel; tourism sector.
26 August 2021

Peter Stefanovic: We finally got him, the Tourism Minister, Dan Tehan, speaking to us live from Canberra. Minister, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. A quick chat today, but when will we see interstate travel?

Dan Tehan: Well, we should see interstate travel when we hit that 70 per cent vaccination rate, Pete. That’s the national plan. It’s been set out in the national plan that National Cabinet has agreed to and, as we’ve seen, it’s incredibly important for the travel industry. We’ve seen what’s happened to Qantas results, which they’ve announced this morning. That’s on the back of them not being able to fly, and we need to get them flying again domestically. And we want to see loved ones seeing each other again, whether it be by flying from Western Australia, New South Wales or Melbourne to Darwin; we want to make sure that we can start to move again.

Peter Stefanovic: The Premiers call the shots though, don’t they?

Dan Tehan: Look, National Cabinet has endorsed the national plan and the national plan is our way out of the pandemic, and it’s incredibly important for the tourism industry that we stick to the national plan — 660,000 jobs depend on it. Our aviation sector, our accommodation sector, our pubs and our hotels, our accommodation sector, are all dependent on people moving, and we want to get people moving again, and that’s why we need people getting vaccinated and hitting those targets of 70 per cent and 80 per cent where we can start opening up internationally.

Peter Stefanovic: Sure. No doubt about that, but you can’t give any assurances, can you, without the green light from Premiers?

Dan Tehan: Well, we’ve set out a national plan, it’s been agreed to by National Cabinet. Every Premier and Territory leader is on National Cabinet. They’ve all agreed to the plan. The plan is endorsed by the Doherty Institute. It’s got world-leading experts on it, and we want to make sure that we open up safely and the plan does that and, you know, the national plan is just so important for our tourism industry, for those 660,000 jobs. And every state and territory has a significant tourism industry here in Australia, so I know that the tourism industry is looking to that national plan as their way out of this. This is what gives them hope. This is the light at the end of the tunnel, and they’re out there encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. Qantas has done it. They’re – right across the board, the tourism sector are doing it. Tourism Australia has put out a great social media campaign on getting people vaccinated. They want to get people vaccinated so we can hit those 70 and 80 per cent targets because the national plan says that then will be great for our tourism industry and especially for those 660,000 jobs.

Peter Stefanovic: Okay, but what’s your message to the Premiers such as Annastacia Palaszczuk or Mark McGowan who, as you know, have threatened to keep borders closed after vaccination targets of 80 per cent are met?

Dan Tehan: Well, we have a vibrant tourism industry in Western Australia. We have a vibrant tourism industry in Queensland and they’re key parts of your economy, and people do want to get moving and they want to get travelling again. And just like the tourism industry in Victoria, we want to make sure that we can get people moving so loved ones can be reunited for Christmas, so people have security in their jobs in the tourism industry. It’s just so, so important, and the national plan is there, it’s been agreed to by National Cabinet and we need everyone on board for the sake of our tourism industry and for the sake of Australians so they can travel and see loved ones again — and especially as we lead up to Christmas, that’s going to be so important. So, we need everyone sticking to the national plan.

Peter Stefanovic: Do you have a view, and what is your view, on Mark McGowan keeping the border closed for travellers and people who want to see families or loved ones, keeping that border closed, but then opening it up for the AFL grand final?

Dan Tehan: Well, look, I think the most important thing, Pete, is that everyone has agreed to the national plan at National Cabinet, and that’s what I’m focused on is making sure that we can get those vaccination rates up to 70 per cent and 80 per cent, and then we can really make sure that we implement the national plan. That is the key thing.

When it comes to the AFL grand final, I think everyone wants to make sure that there are people watching the AFL grand final. I mean, one of the great things about last year’s AFL grand final, which was in Brisbane, was that there was nearly a full crowd there and to see that crowd being able to cheer on the Richmond Football Club win that premiership, even though I couldn’t be there, I must say was fantastic to see. So, I think we understand why we want a crowd at our AFL grand final but what we do want to know and what we do want to see is that everyone will stick to the national plan, because that national plan is our way out of this pandemic and it is so important for our future and especially the future of our jobs.

Peter Stefanovic: Is there a tourism industry –

Dan Tehan: – it is absolutely important for investment into this country. People need to be able to travel into Australia to be able to invest. Australian businesses have to be able to travel overseas as part of our export industries, and we’re still so reliant on exporting and that all requires travel.

Peter Stefanovic: Is there a chance that tourism –

Dan Tehan: It’s the tourism industry, it’s our export industries.

Peter Stefanovic: Is there a chance that people on the east coast of Australia in any way can travel internationally before they can travel to WA?

Dan Tehan: Well, look, we want to make sure that everyone sticks to the national plan. Everyone signed up to the national plan. The Prime Minister has done an extraordinary job in bringing National Cabinet together throughout this pandemic and making sure we steer our country through the pandemic, and in putting the national plan together. The states and territories are on board, they’ve signed up to it. The Doherty Institute has done an enormous amount of work to make sure that we safely exit out of this pandemic and open up and learn to live with the virus. And given that everyone’s on board with it, everyone’s signed up to it, I think everyone needs to see all states and territories stick to it, because that’s what’s going to give us that ability to get moving again, and once we get moving again, that supports those 660,000 jobs in our tourism industry.

Peter Stefanovic: Okay, now there is that news that’s come from Qantas that you referred to earlier. So, Qantas has updated its plans to restart international flights gradual from mid-December to places with high vaccinations. It is dependent on some targets though. So, what’s your view on international travel? When do you think that can resume?

Dan Tehan: Well, the national plan says that international travel can resume through the use of travel bubbles when we hit that 80 per cent vaccination rate. So, if we hit those 80 vaccination rates before Christmas, then we will be able to get those bubbles up and running, and obviously we’ve had one up and running with New Zealand. We want to look to see whether we can get one with the Pacific Islands, with Singapore, with South Korea, with Japan, the UK, the US are other options –

Peter Stefanovic: The UK and US?

Dan Tehan: Well, we want to start planning for that eventuality for when we hit that 80 per cent vaccination rate. That’s what the national plan says. We’ve had discussions with some of those countries about what we could do in setting up a travel bubble. They’re obviously keen to do that, and so we’ll continue to work on those travel bubbles. And in the meantime, what we’re doing is asking and encouraging all Australians to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated so we can hit that 80 per cent mark, and then we can begin to open up to the rest of the world.

Peter Stefanovic: Okay. What will quarantine look like, just finally?

Dan Tehan: Well, we’ll continue to work through that, and we’ll take the expert medical advice on quarantining, but we’ve already seen South Australia move to put their home quarantining pilot in place, and that’s obviously a really good start. And wouldn’t it be wonderful, especially for returning Australians, if there was an ability to be able to quarantine at home in the lead up to Christmas. So, we’ll continue to work through that. It’s going to be obviously incredibly important that we do that in a safe way but, obviously, with people who have been vaccinated, with testing in place, hopefully, we will be able to moderate our quarantine arrangements as we – after we’ve hit that 80 per cent vaccination rate.

Peter Stefanovic: Probably again dependent on the states and travel caps et cetera. But I know you’re busy, minister. Appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Dan Tehan: Been a pleasure, Pete, and apologies for running a little bit late. I was talking to trade ministerial counterparts.

Peter Stefanovic: Okay. No worries at all. Thank you, Minister. We’ll talk to you soon.

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