Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News, First Edition

  • Transcript
Subjects: Reopening of Australia's border to international tourists
21 February 2022

Peter Stefanovic: We're going to go back to Sydney Airport now. It's a very busy morning in Sydney Airport – lots of tourists coming in, and joining us is the Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan. Good morning to you. What have you got there?

Dan Tehan: Mate, it's party central out here. It is absolutely wonderful with koalas being given away, jars of Vegemite, Tim Tams. We've got the surf lifesavers out here, Tourism Australia have got young people out here dressed in ‘Welcome Back’ T-shirts. There's joy on everyone's faces. The reporters who are out here are loving reporting a good news story. It's fantastic. It's just – it's a party. And Australians are giving international tourists an incredibly warm welcome as they get off the planes. And even me, they got off a plane for 19 hours, I'm handing out the koalas and they've got smiles on their faces. So it's a really, really good morning out here.

Peter Stefanovic: Lovely.

Dan Tehan: Great news for our tourism industry.

Peter Stefanovic: I mentioned before, Minister, yeah, a lot of Love Actually-type airport moments here in Sydney Airport this morning, and no doubt they'll be coming up for Melbourne Airport a little bit later on. Can you share some of the numbers? How many flights coming in today and this week and passenger numbers, too, are they reaching capacity?

Dan Tehan: Yeah, so there's 56 flights in today right across Australia, which is fantastic and talking to the airline industry, some of the senior people are out here this morning, they're all saying they're seeing very, very strong demand, and they're going to be putting more aircraft on the routes to Australia so it's wonderful.

And let's hope that we get that strong, strong rebound. I'm confident that we will, and those 660,000 people that are employed in our tourism sector, the future is looking very bright again. They've had a tough two years. But the way we've dealt with the pandemic, we shouldn't underestimate how that will help that really, really strong rebound. Over 95 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated. The economy has performed strongly through the last two years, so I'm really confident we're going to see a very, very strong rebound.

Peter Stefanovic: Our two biggest markets, though, when it comes to tourism – China and New Zealand – still unplayable though. What sort of an impact is that going to have, and when do you see that changing?

Dan Tehan: Look, it will have an impact. The Chinese government obviously have their zero Covid policy in place at the moment, so that makes it tough for that part of the tourism market. But if you look at New Zealand, it's reopening, what drives tourism from New Zealand is visiting friends, family and relatives. Well, friends, family and relatives haven't gone away. So I think we'll see a really big uptake in the New Zealand market very quickly when the New Zealand government change their current policies.

We are fully reopened. Tourism Australia are out there with a $40 million ad campaign at the moment telling the world that we're fully reopened. And one of the things, when they see Australia's fully reopened, I think you'll see New Zealand want to fully reopen as quickly as they possibly can, and you'll see other countries also in Asia get the confidence to do the same.

So, I was with the Japanese ambassador last week. They're obviously keen to see the Japanese market fully reopen again. Singapore, South Korea and obviously in India, 10 days ago I signed an MOU. It was our fastest growing tourism market leading into the pandemic, and every sign that that's going to kick into gear very quickly as well.

Peter Stefanovic: The UK has just made some changes – quite a lot of changes. There's actually not too many restrictions that are left, Minister, and that includes the unvaccinated. There's no need for them to quarantine when it comes into the UK. When do you expect that to happen here?

Dan Tehan: Well, look, we'll work with the states and territories on that. They ultimately have the final say on that. But one of the great things is that we've got a uniform position amongst our states which are open at the moment around being fully vaccinated and I think the most important thing is that we have that nationally consistent position. If we can get that, that will go a long way to making sure that rebound continues apace.

You've got to remember, everyone when they come to Australia, they often want to visit two or three states at a time. So the more we can make sure the states and territories work together to have that nationally consistent position, the better.

Peter Stefanovic: So when would you like to see that happen?

Dan Tehan: Look, ultimately that's up to the states and territories. We'll work with them on that. For the foreseeable future you need to be fully vaccinated. That's the policy. It's working well. We've had over 200,000 visitors come in over the last couple of months, which has worked very successfully. The majority of those have been international students and backpackers, which will also help drive employment in our tourism sector as well. So we'll work with the states and territories on that. But for the foreseeable future we've got a very good, consistent position and let's hope that the states and territories can keep that consistent position.

Peter Stefanovic: Okay. That is the Tourism Minister Dan Tehan live with us from the Sydney Airport with the koala, Vegemite and Tim Tam, which is going out to every passenger, every arrival this morning. Minister, thank you.

Dan Tehan: It is. And, Pete, if you want to drop down, there's a jar of Vegemite and a Tim Tam for you as well.

Peter Stefanovic: Okay. Well, that's timely, because I'm out of both. Thanks, Minister.

Dan Tehan: Take care.

Peter Stefanovic: See you soon. I'll take a koala for my kids, too. Thanks, Dan. Talk to you soon.


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