Interview with Scott Emerson, 4BC Drive

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Christian Porter, Linda Reynolds, ‘Holiday Here This Year’ tourism campaign, Opening of international borders, Border closures, Support for the tourism sector.
04 March 2021

Scott Emerson: Now, it’s time you took a holiday. Well, that’s according to the Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan. He says in fact it’s your patriotic duty to take a holiday out there and help our tourism sector. I’m sure he’s talking about all Australians taking a holiday here in Queensland. Dan Tehan is my guest now on 4BC Drive. Minister, thanks for being on the show.

Dan Tehan: Pleasure, Scott.

Emerson: Now, let me – before I get onto that issue of tourism – let me just address a couple of issues that obviously are dominating federal politics at the moment. Christian Porter, we did see that Anthony Albanese, the Federal Opposition Leader, came out a short time ago and said there needs to be an independent inquiry into these allegations, the historical rape allegations against Christian Porter. The Minister, the Attorney-General, has vehemently denied those allegations. But, isn’t that going to be the way to clear up this ongoing issue?

Tehan: No, it’s not and I can’t understand why the Leader of the Opposition would be calling for that because what we have to do in Australia is make sure that we understand that the presumption of innocence is fundamental to our way of life, to the way that our society operates. We’ve got law enforcement, that is the right investigator when it comes to these types of matters. The New South Wales Police have looked at this matter and decided that it should not go no further, and if we start playing around with the presumption of innocence, it is a very slippery slope. So, I think the PM has been absolutely right to say that the courts and law enforcement is the right way that we deal with these issues, and we have to protect the presumption of innocence.

Emerson: The other issue today in federal politics were the comments – now have been reported – by Linda Reynolds, describing her former staffer, the alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins, as a ‘lying cow’. What was your reaction when you heard those comments?

Tehan: Well, once again, the PM has spoken to Linda and, as I understand it, as he’s relayed it, she’s spoken to her staff and apologised for those comments. She understands that they were inappropriate and wrong, and she should never have made them. They were obviously at the end of a stressful week and in her private office. But, you know, she’s apologised for them and she knows that they were inappropriate and wrong.

Emerson: Now, Brittany Higgins has released a statement a short time ago regarding those comments, saying they are incredibly hurtful. But, she goes on to say, I appreciate that it has been a stressful time but that sort of behaviour and language is never excusable, and is just further evidence of the toxic workplace culture that exists behind the closed doors in Parliament House. Is there a toxic workplace culture there in Parliament House?

Tehan: Look, I think one of the things that we’ve all seen over the last couple of weeks is that we all need to get better, and that’s why we’re putting processes – across the political divide – to make sure that we keep learning from these experiences and continue to improve the workplace culture. I think all of us try and make sure our working environment is as fruitful and conducive as possible to a very good work environment. But, obviously, we need to be doing more and that’s why we’ve reached out across the political divide to put in place a process to ensure that we can do better.

Emerson: Now, I’m talking to Dan Tehan, the Federal Tourism Minister. Minister, you’ve said that it’s our patriotic duty to go take a holiday. Why is that?

Tehan: Well, while international borders remain closed, our domestic tourism industry, which supports over 660,000 jobs in parts and in places, is still suffering. And, the best way that we can help and support the sector is by taking a holiday. And, we’ve just launched another campaign under Tourism Australia to really encourage Australians to think about the Easter holidays, the coming term one school holidays, another opportunity to take a holiday. Or, if you’re retired or just want to get away for the weekend, to think about taking a holiday. We need to support our tourism industry through the next four to six months. It’s going to be absolutely vital as we’re rolling out the vaccine that we do that, and we want to be doing everything we can to encourage people to take that trip. Just don’t think about it. We want them to do it.

Emerson:  Well, one of the issues, of course, is that closure of the international borders. The Government has just recently extended the ban on international travel. When do you think that ban is going to be withdrawn?

Tehan: My hope is, if we can successfully rollout the vaccine, that towards the end of this year we should be able to open up that international border and that’s very much something that I’ll be working towards. And, in the meantime, we’re having discussions with certain countries which are also rolling the vaccine out. But, if we get the opportunity to set up travel bubbles, that’s what we’ll do. We’ve been in discussions with New Zealand. We’ve had discussions with the relevant minister in Singapore, as well. And, if we can get to the stage where the medical advice says it’s safe to do so, then very much we want to begin opening the international border as well, because as I’ve said previously, that 660,000 jobs right across our nation are in part dependent on international tourism and we want to make sure that we can start bringing those international tourists back as soon as possible.

Emerson: Well, you mentioned those travel bubbles. You mentioned New Zealand, Singapore. Are you likely to see those countries open up say before, obviously, very popular destinations like the US and the UK?

Tehan: Look, it will depend on the success of the vaccine rollout both here and in those countries. In the UK, they’re making rapid progress with their vaccine rollout, so there would be some opportunities there towards the end of the year that we could look at but it will very much be a sort of a wait and see approach that we have to take. Our key focus here, in the meantime, is making sure that we roll the vaccine out properly here, and then also, while we’re waiting, encouraging all Australians to take that holiday. Because, if we do that, and in particular if we put our hands in our pockets and spend like we spend when we go overseas, here in Australia, that’s going to give our tourism industry here locally a huge boost and really help us get through that period – this next four to six months – while we’re waiting for those international borders to reopen and while we’re waiting for the vaccine to rollout to deal with the pandemic.

Emerson: Do you think there is still some reluctance to travel interstate at the moment with, we’ve seen, obviously, lockdowns in Melbourne, border closures here in between Queensland and other states. There’s that legacy of that that will harm the ease to travel, because it’s so much in the minds of many tourists out there.

Tehan: There is, sadly and that’s one of the things that, with the states and territories, that the Commonwealth Government wants to work on. Tourism Australia did a recent survey and the biggest thing that’s preventing people from taking those interstate trips, it’s not the fear of the coronavirus, it’s fear of border closures and that’s something that we need to change. We’ve got to give people the confidence to want to be able to travel and we’ve got to have our states and territories agreeing that border closures will be an absolute last resort. And, because we’ve got the vaccine rolling out, because we’ve got the contact tracing and the testing in place, we should be able to get to the stage where we’re able to say they will be a last resort. People should have the confidence to travel, and let’s make sure that that interstate travel really starts happening at a pace again.

Emerson: Now, Queensland Treasury has done some modelling and they’re claiming another 50,000 Queenslanders could lose their jobs at the end of March when the JobKeeper wage subsidy wraps up. And, a lot of those, obviously, could be potentially in the tourism sector as well. What are you going to do for the general population, but specifically the tourism sector, after the end of March when JobKeeper ends?

Tehan: Yes. So, this is something that we’re looking at at the moment and we have to remember that the Federal Government has provided enormous support to Queensland. It’s nearly four times more than what the Queensland State Government itself has provided. It’s nearly $28-29 billion in support throughout the coronavirus pandemic. So we are looking at the moment as to what the post-JobKeeper support will be for the tourism industry. I met with my Cabinet colleagues yesterday to discuss some of the options, and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to let the tourism industry know what that support will look like in the next couple of weeks but I’d also say to the Queensland State Government that it’s absolutely vital that they play their role as well. We’ve just launched this new marketing campaign about people holidaying in capital cities and any help or support that they could give to the tourism industry in Brisbane would be very good. Also, what support they could do to getting a national consensus around having border closures as a last resort would be really helpful because, you know, I know there are many, many Victorians who are looking to travel north as the weather starts to get colder and the weather gets warmer in Queensland but they’ll only do it if they know that those borders won’t snap shut. So, they’ve got a really important role to play with the Commonwealth Government as JobKeeper ends and we continue to make sure that we’re looking after our tourism industry as we come through this pandemic.

Emerson: Alright Dan Tehan, the Federal Tourism Minister, I appreciate you being on 4BC Drive this afternoon.

Tehan: Always a pleasure Scott, thanks a lot.

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