Interview with Scott Emerson, 4BC Drive

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Tourism and aviation support package, Support for the tourism sector, Border closures.
11 March 2021

Scott Emerson: Now, I’m joined now by the Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan. Minister, thanks for being on 4BC Drive.

Dan Tehan: A pleasure, Scott. Wonderful to be with you again.

Emerson: Now, you said last week, patriotic duty to take a holiday. If you don’t take up one of these half-price fares, are you being unpatriotic?

Tehan: Well, I think what you’ll be doing is you’ll be supporting 600,000 tourism jobs, and that’s what these discounted fares are all about. The aviation sector is already discounting fares heavily, and this adds to that and supports, in particular, those regions that have been hard hit by international tourism, or the lack of international tourism, and that’s what this package is about. And, by offering these discounted airfares, what we’re hoping is that people will then spend at location — they’ll go to the pub, they’ll go to a restaurant, or they’ll go on some of the wonderful tourist attractions that you can when you visit these regional locations, and that’s what we want. We want people visiting regions. We want them spending in those regions and really supporting those 600,000 jobs in the tourism industry.

Emerson: Now, look, this has been welcomed by some in Queensland. I quoted from Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chairman Ken Chapman. He says it’s great. The mayor on the Gold Coast Tom Tate, he’s welcomed today’s package. But, others have raised concerns that, look, this is great for the airlines, but we would have liked more, we would have liked some wages subsidies to continue on post-JobKeeper. And, some of the tourism industry won’t get too much benefit out of it. One of the people that are saying that was Daniel Gschwind, the CEO from the Queensland Tourism Industry Council. What are you, what’s your response to that criticism, that it doesn’t deal enough with many of the tourism sector that may not be in some of these zones?

Tehan: Well, there is some specific measures also in the package, including another $128 million for our travel agents who have been very hard hit. We’re reworking the $50 million Business Events Program to make sure that it can be rolled out properly as well, and very successful Zoos and Aquariums Program is also being extended but the key message out of this is that JobKeeper was targeted, it was temporary, and it’s done its job, and we can’t keep funding businesses by running them through the taxpayer. And, so we’re ending JobKeeper, but we understand that the tourism industry has been hit hard and that’s why we want to provide this support. And, when I was in Queensland I visited up and down the state the tourism operators, and there was one thing that really, really stuck with me. When I asked one operator, ‘What more than anything else would you like?’ and they said ‘Tourists’, and that’s what this is about. It’s about making sure that people will get on planes, visit locations, and that we get domestic tourism in this country pumping. And, if we can particularly get state and territory governments not closing borders, then what we will see is a boom in domestic tourism and that's what this is all about — incentivising travel and saying to state and territory governments, come with us on this journey. Don't shut your borders. Actually, you back it in as well. You provide incentives as well, and we will really get the domestic tourism industry pumping.

Emerson: Now, Minister, we’ve got Paul on the line. He wanted to ask a question about the flights. Paul, what’s your question to Minister Dan Tehan?

Caller Paul: G’day Scott and hey Dan. Yeah, I agree with all this. It’s a good incentive. But, okay, you’ve got half-price fares to getting people to these destinations, but they’ve got to get home. Does it apply to the return journey?

Tehan: It does. It applies to the destination and then home again. And, I’d say to everyone, while these will all come in as of the first of April, but have a look already, there are some wonderful deals that are there to get people travelling. The aviation sector really wants to get this country moving again. So, there will be these great discount flights which will kick in in April. But, also, if you’re looking to travel now, there are some wonderful deals going on. There’s never been a better time to get out there, take a holiday, and visit all the wonderful locations we’ve got right across this nation.

Emerson: Now, Minister, the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said, look, this is good, but it needs to be better, and one of the criticism is that there should have been half-price tickets for those in Brisbane to be able to travel to some of those destinations like Cairns and Whitsundays. Why wasn’t that included?

Tehan: Well, on the whole, we wanted intrastate, that’s travel within states, on the whole, leave that to the state and territory governments. And, I would just welcome so much, and I think it would be wonderful, if the Queensland Premier backed this in by offering discount tickets between Brisbane and Cairns. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if she just went, ‘wow, the Federal Government — 800,000 discounted tickets, 46,000 a week’. I would just love it if she just went, ‘you know what, Queensland loves this so much, the Queensland State Government loves it so much, we’re going to do the same for Brisbane to Cairns, and Brisbane to the Gold Coast and Brisbane to the Whitsundays’. I would just love that. Wouldn’t it be great, positive announcement like that on the back of this. I think we’d all just, as I say, hooray, Queensland State Premier.

Emerson: Well, I’m not going to be holding my breath on that one. I said something very similar early on. But, clearly that’s not the view of Premier Palaszczuk. She says she wants the Feds to spend more money and spend it the way she wants it.

Tehan: Yeah, look, we’ve obviously really supported Queensland throughout this pandemic and we want to keep on doing it, and that’s why we’ve announced this initiative. When it came to JobKeeper, about $28 billion to support Queensland. I think the Queensland State Government has thrown in around $5.8, so we want to work with the Queensland State Government to provide support. We’ve been putting our hand in our pocket and doing that, and I’d love the Queensland State Government to back what we’ve done today and really stick their hand in their pocket and say, ‘alright, we’re happy also to give some discount flights or some discount accommodation vouchers, some more of those, some vouchers for, to go on tourist rides or visit attractions.’ That would be great. This should be all about Team Australia getting behind this and seeing what everyone can do to support the tourism industry and, you know, I would, no one would be happier than me, as Australia’s Tourism Minister, if that’s the approach the Queensland State Government took.

Emerson: Alright Minister. I appreciate you being on 4BC Drive this afternoon.

Tehan: Always a pleasure Scott, thanks.

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