Interview with Rebecca Levingston, ABC Brisbane

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Reopening of Australia’s international border.
26 October 2021

Rebecca Levingston: How keen are you to travel overseas? Because a Bali travel bubble with Australia is on the cards. The federal Tourism Minister is Dan Tehan. Minister, good morning.

Dan Tehan: Morning, Rebecca. How are you?

Rebecca Levingston: Well, thank-you. When could Australians be on a beach in Bali?

Dan Tehan: Well, look, obviously it depends on us hitting those vaccination rates that we need to as part of the national plan. But once we hit that 80 per cent national vaccination rate and each state and territory then individually reach the 80 per cent mark, we’ll be looking to reopen. And we’ve already had discussions with Singapore. The Prime Minister announced on Friday that over the coming days we’ll be looking at a travel lane or a travel bubble with Singapore and discussions continue with other countries – Japan, South Korea and Indonesia with regards to Bali.

Rebecca Levingston: My listeners are already getting emails about cheap flights to New Zealand, to Fiji, to Bali. Are the travel companies jumping the gun?

Dan Tehan: No, they’re not jumping the gun. They’re keen to take bookings, and that’s what we want. We want to get Australia reopened. We want to make sure that we do it safely, and that’s why we’ll do it through travel bubbles and travel lanes to make sure that we open up in a safe way, but a way that really means that our tourism industry will bounce back very strongly. 660,000 jobs in the tourism industry. We want to make sure that we can get everyone back to work as quickly as we possibly can so they can earn an income and provide taxes to the government so we can provide for that health care and aged care and disability care that we need to.

Rebecca Levingston: So, Minister, can I just get some clarification. There was, to much fanfare, the discussion about international borders in New South Wales and Victoria reopening in November, which is a week away. Is that only for inbound travel?

Dan Tehan: No, that’s for outbound travel as well.

Rebecca Levingston: Right.

Dan Tehan: So, Australians can travel freely outbound once we hit those – hit that 80 per cent national vaccination rate, then each state and territory does the same. So that is for outbound and inbound.

Rebecca Levingston: And there’s no restrictions on that time wise? When you’re going this is talking about leisure travel, short stays overseas in places like Singapore or London or beyond?

Dan Tehan: That’s correct. That’s about – it can be for business, it can be for pleasure, it can be to visit family and friends, it can be for returning Australians visiting family and friends. There is – it’s about opening the borders so Australians can travel freely again.

Rebecca Levingston: And are there any restrictions on outbound travellers when it comes to vaccinations?

Dan Tehan: Only the restrictions that will be in place for the countries that you’re looking to travel to. And we always advise anyone who’s looking to travel overseas to make sure that they look at the Smart Traveller website so that they know what the requirements might be with regards to vaccination or testing. So visit to make sure that you can get all the information about the country you might be travelling to.

Rebecca Levingston: And it would seem that those countries are fairly keen on people being vaccinated in order to travel. But I ask as well because you mentioned Indonesia and the discussions you’re having as the Tourism Minister about a Bali bubble. The double vaccination rate in Bali, I understand, is about 33 per cent. Do you have any concerns about travellers back and forth with a vaccination rate that low?

Dan Tehan: Well, that’s one of the considerations that we have to take into account, and that’s what we will be doing. So obviously, ultimately, in the end we will take the medical expert advice on how we should do this and the requirements that should be put in place. But we’re obviously very keen to get Bali as a destination up and running again. We know Australians love to travel to Bali. The Indonesians are very keen to get Bali reopened because it’s so important tourism for the Balinese economy. So, we’ll continue to keep working with the Indonesian government on this but understanding how important that market is to Bali but also the love of Australians to wanting to travel to Bali. I think it’s one of our favourite destinations.

Rebecca Levingston: Sure. But you’ve got to juggle as Tourism Minister and as a minister in the federal government in Australia, you would know that there’s lots of people who are listening now who are going, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hang on a second”. We’ve done so well, and even if our vaccination rates are high, if you go to Indonesia at the moment there won’t be any quarantine requirements when you come back to Australia. That’s the plan, isn’t it?

Dan Tehan: So, look, they’re decisions that still have to be made. But it could well be that those quarantine requirements for doubly vaxxed Australians returning, that they won’t be any longer in place. That’s ultimately where we want to get to.

Rebecca Levingston: Yep.

Dan Tehan: But all these things will be worked through with our health experts. There’s one thing that we are very, very determined to do – and that’s to reopen the economy and reopen the country safely. So, everything we’ll be doing will be about reopening safely. And we’ll take our medical expert advice. They’re the ones who have steered us through this pandemic so successfully. And as we open up to the rest of the world – which we have to do – we want to make sure that we do it safely. And that’s why their advice will remain very important as part of this process.

Rebecca Levingston: Dan Tehan the federal Tourism Minister, Minister, I know you’re tight on time this morning, but Tracey from the Sunshine Coast has sent me a, “Woo hoo! We’re going to Canada in February,” so she’s happy about this. Just quickly, what about cruise ships? When do you think international cruise ships will be docking in Australia?

Dan Tehan: Look, my hope is that we will be able to have cruise ships back soon. Obviously, they’re incredibly important for our tourism industry.

Rebecca Levingston: But how soon? I understand there’s a review on passenger numbers on December 17, is that correct?

Dan Tehan: That’s right. There is – the quarantine arrangements at the moment only permit cruise ships who carry under a hundred passengers to ply in Australian waters at the moment. That will – that decision will be reviewed and to see whether we lift that on December 17. So, the Government is undertaking consideration of that at the moment. And my hope is that we’ll be able to give certainty to the cruise ship industry to be able to return to Australia, because they’re incredibly, incredibly popular.

Rebecca Levingston: Queensland’s double vaccination rate is just over 60 per cent. Is Queensland going to be left behind in the tourism race, Minister?

Dan Tehan: What I hope is that everyone in Queensland can continue rolling their sleeves up and getting vaccinated. We want to make sure that everyone comes along as we safely reopen the economy. And I encourage and support everyone in Queensland to keep getting vaccinated, because as soon as you hit that 80 per cent mark, obviously, the ability to travel internationally and to have international tourists coming back into Queensland will obviously come to the fore, and that’s what we want to see. Because the Queensland tourism industry is so important to Australia’s economy, to Australian jobs, and ultimately Australian jobs lead to taxes and the services for our health sector and our aged care sector and our disability sector that we need. So, my hope is all Queenslanders can continue to getting vaccinated and we’ll get Queensland open to international tourists as soon as we possibly and safely can.

Rebecca Levingston: Minister, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.


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