Interview with Stephen Quartermain and Emily Power, 3AW

  • Transcript
Subjects: Overseas travel.
23 September 2021

Stephen Quartermain: Speaking of the USA, Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan believes the international borders will be open by Christmas at the latest, and he has urged Australians to get vaccinated to trigger the threshold which is necessary to resume flights overseas. And the Trade and Tourism Minister joins us this morning. Thank you, Minister. Good morning, Dan.

Dan Tehan: Pleasure to be with you Steve and Emily. And it's great to have a stable day here in Victoria, which is terrific.

Stephen Quartermain: Geez, what did you make of yesterday?

Dan Tehan: Well, I'm coming from Hamilton, and I've got to say we didn't feel a thing down here so – which was great. Western Victoria was very calm but, obviously my family and I, I grew up in northeast Victoria, so I was very pleased that around Mansfield there wasn't any injuries or deaths. So, it was good that we were able to get through it unscathed apart from damage.

Emily Power: Minister, there were talks of the international borders opening around Christmas time. But you're saying now it will be Christmas at the latest. That was in your Press Club address. What's changed?

Dan Tehan: Well, people are getting vaccinated, which is fantastic and those vaccination rates continue to climb. We're confident we'll hit 50 per cent of all Australians being doubly vaccinated this week and we're also hitting rates towards that 80 per cent single dose. So, it's fantastic news and it means that we'll be able to get that international travel starting again before Christmas.

Stephen Quartermain: The big questions that a lot of us want answered though, Minister, is that how is international travel going to look? Will we need vaccination passports? Will we have to quarantine there? Will we have to quarantine when we get back? Are we sort of putting a plan together to try and work all this out?

Dan Tehan: Absolutely, we're putting that plan together. And we're putting in place the mechanisms that we need to implement that plan. So already we've been over – we've sent out to all our overseas embassies the QR code technology that will show that you are vaccinated, so your vaccination certification. And we're making sure that that will be interoperable with the systems that are used in our major markets where Australians like to travel and where we like to welcome international visitors from and that technology is working very well. It's been designed consistently with what the international aviation authority, or organisation, uses. And so all that planning is being done, so once we open up we want to make sure that Australians will be able to travel as seamlessly as possible.

Stephen Quartermain: Now, it's all right to maybe take two weeks off work and travel to your favourite destination, but, of course, none of us can afford to come back and quarantine for two weeks. That's just not possible. Will we have to quarantine when we get home?

Dan Tehan: So, they're the other arrangements that we're discussing with countries. What we would like to be able to put in place is travel bubbles, like we did with New Zealand, and when it was up and running before we entered this third wave it meant that you could have quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand. And we're in discussions with New Zealand about reopening that travel bubble, with Pacific islands, with Singapore, with South Korea, Japan, the US, the UK, to see what arrangements we can put in place to either minimise quarantine arrangements or hopefully, over time, end up where we did with New Zealand where you have quarantine-free travel.

Stephen Quartermain: No, look, I can't wait to get back to my favourite place in the world – and that's New York, Dan. But the problem is the United States of America at the moment don't acknowledge AstraZeneca as legitimate vaccination. What's happening there?

Dan Tehan: Yeah, so we're working through all those issues as well. And I'm very confident that they will recognise the AstraZeneca vaccine and, likewise here in Australia, we're doing the work through the TGA about recognising vaccines that are used internationally. So we continue to engage with the United States on that issue. I'm doubly vaxxed with AstraZeneca. I must say, I was able to travel to the US about three months ago without a problem. So I don't think it will be an issue but we continue to work through that.

Stephen Quartermain: So we've got some light at the end of the tunnel, which is what we all need as we head up to Christmas. Thank you very much, Dan, for your time. Minister for Trade and Tourism Dan Tehan.

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