Interview with Ross Stevenson, 3AW Breakfast

  • Transcript
Subjects: Victorian COVID-19 restrictions, Tourism and aviation support package, Support for the tourism sector, COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Travel bubble with New Zealand and Singapore
19 March 2021

Ross Stevenson: Dan Tehan is the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. He is a Victorian himself, but Minister in the Federal Government. Minister, good morning to you.

Dan Tehan: Ross, how are you?

Stevenson: Yeah, good. You want the Victorian Government to order public servants back to work in the CBD?

Tehan: That's right. If we can have 50,000 at The G last night to see the mighty Tigers beat the Blues, then it's time for us to get all workers back to the CBD, and the State Government could show real leadership by leading the way and saying, ‘Right, we're going to get all our public servants back to work.' It'd be great for those businesses in the Melbourne CBD and it would be them leading by example.

Stevenson: So, why haven't they? If they have the capacity to assist the CBD by ordering public servants back into the city, why don't they?

Tehan: Look, I'm not quite sure why they haven't at this stage. Obviously, you know, the contact tracing, the testing, all those regimes – we've had over 12, we've had 12 months to get them in order. So, I think it would be fantastic if they did it, and as I said, if we can get 50,000 at The G last night – great atmosphere, looked like Melbourne was pumping again – it's time to get the CBD really pumping. And, the best way we could do that is get all the workers back in there and really get it happening, vibrant and really supporting those businesses.

Stevenson: The Lord Mayor Sally Capp asked the other day for you to put Melbourne – Tullamarine Airport – on the list of airports that are part of this subsidised scheme. Is that going to happen?

Tehan: Look, I spoke with Sally before that motion and just explained to her that we'd been in close consultations with the airlines before we announced that package, and, in particular, both Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin are already running very discounted prices between Melbourne and Sydney, and Melbourne and other destinations. As a matter of fact, for Melburnians, it's never been cheaper to travel in and out of Melbourne Airport, and what we wanted to do is support those routes where we weren't seeing such discounting. And, I also said to her, you know, one of the other things that we really need to see is getting people back into the city and getting workers back into the city. So, look, we said we would keep working with the airlines, but while there are so many discounted flights – you can fly Melbourne to Sydney now for $60 – we wanted to support those routes where we need to get extra capacity on.

Stevenson: Tell me – you are also the Minister for Tourism – to my eye, we are not going to have Australians flying overseas or people from overseas coming in here until we have a full vaccine rollout. To my eye, the vaccine rollout in Australia is treacle slow. CSL – I think, I think Monday is the day when CSL was planning to rollout their very first vial up at Broadmeadows. Are you confident that we've got enough?

Tehan: Yes. Look, one of the best and most important decisions the Government took was to get local production. As Trade Minister, obviously, it's been disappointing that we haven't been able to get the supply out of the EU that we hoped we would. But, given the dire situation in a lot of Europe, they've had a lot …

Stevenson: … But, Minister, most of ours was coming out of Broadmeadows. That was where most of it was coming from.

Tehan: Now it will be with that local production. That local production has been stood up and will start as of next week, which is fantastic, because once we've got our own supply and we're creating it here, nothing can stand in the way of the vaccine rollout, and they're going to be scaling that up immediately. So, that is going to be incredibly important because up until now, we've been relying on getting the vaccine from overseas …

Stevenson: … Righto, so, speaking of which …

Tehan: … We'll be producing it ourselves.

Stevenson: Speaking of which, Minister, hand on heart, we were told we're going to get 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. So far, I think we got 400,000. Do we have a signed contract with Pfizer that requires them to supply us with 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine?

Tehan: Yes, so Pfizer have been very good. They've honoured everything that they've said that they would do …

Stevenson: … Right, so have they said they'll provide us with 20 million? Is that actually a contract?

Tehan: Yes. They're, they have said that they will do it, and we are very confident that they will …

Stevenson: … When? …

Tehan: … The biggest issue we've had is the export controls out of Europe that have prevented some of the AstraZeneca coming into the country, and obviously we've taken that up with the European Union. I've spoken to their Trade Minister myself to say that this is not the way that we want the European Union behaving. I've also spoken to the head of the World Trade Organization …

Stevenson: … That's the AstraZeneca. That's the AstraZeneca, Minister. You're telling me we're definitely getting 20 million of the Pfizer.

Tehan: So, the Pfizer is coming and they have so far met every part of the contract that they said they would, and our local AstraZeneca production begins next week …

Stevenson: … Monday …

Tehan: … We begin rolling out that next week, and that's incredibly important because we don't rely on bringing AstraZeneca in from overseas anymore, and that means we'll be able to get everyone, we'll be able to use that to get everyone vaccinated here in Australia. And, the most important thing, Ross, is it also should give us more and more confidence to start travelling. Our hope is we'll have a New Zealand bubble open and running properly, a two-way bubble, in the coming weeks, which would be fantastic. Obviously, New Zealanders have been able to come here, but there is strong talk that they will create a proper two-way bubble. So, that means we'll be able to travel to and from New Zealand …

Stevenson: … That's good news …

Tehan: … And, I'm hoping in a couple of months we'll be able to do the same with Singapore. Singapore are very keen to try and get a bubble going as well with us. So, there is hope on the horizon for our tourism industry, especially those businesses that are reliant on international tourists.

Stevenson: Good on you Minister. Dan Tehan, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

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