Press conference in Gold Coast, Queensland

  • Transcript, E&OE

Joint press conference with:

  • Angie Bell, Member for Moncrieff
  • Adrienne Readings, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre General Manager
  • Kos Sclavos AM, Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference and Trade Exhibition 2021 Conference Convenor 
  • Christie McCormack, Hire and Rental Industry Association QLD President
Subjects: Business Events Grants Program, ‘Event Here This Year’ tourism campaign, Support for the tourism sector, Vaccines, Trade diversification, Border closures, International tourists.
11 February 2021

Angie Bell: I welcome you all here this morning at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre and I’m with the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan who has travelled to the Gold Coast, of course very important to tourism, to the Gold Coast, is tourism – so, we’re very pleased that he’s here. We also have Adrienne Readings from the Gold Coast Exhibition Centre, Christie, and also Kos here today, who are recipients of the announcement that the Minister is about to make for events on the Gold Coast. And, of course, the more events that we have here on the Gold Coast the better it is for local business – when coffee shops are full and restaurants are full – and, of course, those tourism operators who have had such a difficult time here on the Gold Coast will be able to fill also with those business events. So, I would stand here and encourage every CEO around the country to come to the Gold Coast, to book in for your convention, and also to apply for the funding that the Minister is about to announce. Thank you. Minister Tehan.

Dan Tehan: Thanks, thanks Ange, and can I say what a pleasure it is to be here on the Gold Coast with you and thank you for the very warm welcome. Business events are worth $36 billion to our national economy. And, what we have operating at the moment is a $50 million program to help encourage business events as we come out of this pandemic. Now, we already have 190 business events signed up to this program, 22 of which are here on the Gold Coast, which is absolutely fantastic but, what we want to encourage is more and more business events to register for this program. It’s a $50 million program and if you register for this program what it means is, for businesses who travel to your business event, the Australian Government will support those businesses anywhere between $10,000 to $250,000. We want to kickstart business events in this nation and that’s why we’ve got this $50 million program in place, and why we’re encouraging more people who are holding business events to register so then the businesses who will attend your business event will get supported.

Can I also say how great it is to be here on the Gold Coast – it’s a significant driver of tourism here in Australia. I was out on the beach this morning, went for a swim, water was beautiful and we want to be doing everything we can to encourage Australians to be having vacations again – to making sure that they’re visiting the wonderful, wonderful locations we have right across Australia. And, as part of that, we want to ensure that Australians have the confidence and, so to travel. What we really want to see, especially as we roll out the vaccine – and we’ve got terrific news again today with the reports out of the European Union that the vaccines will be arriving on time and our vaccine program will be being rolled out at the end of this month as planned – what we want Australians to do is to have the confidence to travel. We know that our state premiers and state territory leaders have the contact tracing in place. They’ve got the testing regimes in place. So, what we want to see as part of the vaccine rollout taking place is border closures be a last resort, because that will give Australians the confidence to travel and that means experiences like you can have here on the Gold Coast – like the Aquaduck experience that I had this morning – Australians will have the confidence to come here to the Gold Coast, experience these wonderful experiences that you have here on the Gold Coast and start putting much-needed dollars again into the local economy – supporting, right across our nation, 666,000 jobs. So, it’s terrific to be here and I might just ask if our guests could say a few words about our business events program, and Adrienne I might throw to you first.

Adrienne Readings: Thank you, Minister. Yes, well, I’d like to thank the Minister and his Government for this fantastic approach for this Business Events Grant. There’s no doubt that business events was probably impacted in the first instance when COVID-19 hit and is probably one of the industries that will come back last because of the numbers involved. However, this type of confidence from the Government can only endorse the rest of Australia to start having business events in a COVID safe environment. Every event venue have implemented a COVID safe plan, and we feel extremely confident that we can operate under a very safe environment, so I would encourage all business events to come and bring their delegates here and kickstart this industry once again. So, I’d like to again thank you Minister. And, also obviously Angie, who is a great advocate of the Gold Coast, and I’d like to introduce two of our conference organisers that actually are going to host their events. So, I might ask Kos if you wouldn’t mind stepping up first, and we look forward to welcoming your guests in May.

Kos Sclavos AM: Minister Tehan, Ange. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia hosts Australia’s largest pharmaceutical conference here at the Gold Coast Convention Centre – 6,000 people attend each year. And, I can’t stress enough how wonderful this support is. To give you an indication, there’s 400 stands, there’s 6,000 delegates from all around Australia, especially in 2021, we’re going to be on the Wednesday of the program we’re training 100 pharmacists to become vaccinators to help the Commonwealth. The support you’ve given pharmacists to be frontline workers, but even for the delegates and the flow-on impacts to the Gold Coast area. So, to give you an indication, when a group like 6,000 descend on the Gold Coast it’s great for local restaurants, other pre-events, other pharmacy groups have their own events. And, from our point of view there’s been so many changes, getting away from your business … Pharmacies have been frontline. I can’t tell you how stressful it’s been. While the rest of Australia locations have shutdown, pharmacies have stayed open. So, it’s very important for pharmacy staff to have a few days away from their business to reflect on the changes. Enormous changes in the last 12 months in pharmacy have been things like paperless prescriptions, you know, people haven’t been able to move in, we’ve had remote delivery of medicines. So, thanks to the support of the Morrison Government and the Coalition Government we’ve been able to implement these changes. But, there’s nothing like getting together, hearing from your colleagues who implemented well, who implemented it badly, what lessons can we learn, and that’s why these conferences are so important. So, it’s great for the Gold Coast, we know what value we bring to the economy here and we want to see pharmacists and pharmacy industry staff from all around Australia. So, borders coming down are really critical. So, whether the pharmacist is in Broome or Burnie we’d like to see them all on the Gold Coast in May. And, we again want to thank our local advocate Angie for all your support, to the Gold Coast Convention Centre who’ve been wonderful partners, and we look forward to seeing the pharmaceutical industry here in May. Thanks very much.

Tehan: Thanks, Kos. Christie.

Christie McCormack: Good morning. Thank you Minister, thank you Ange. My name’s Christie McCormack. I represent the Hire and Rental Industry Association of Australia. So, we represent the $8 billion hire and rental industry, which has been significantly impacted by COVID. We represent the events members, so some of those have lost up to 98 per cent of their revenues. So, we’re really excited to hold our 52nd convention here on the Gold Coast. We’re here every couple of years. We had to cancel last year our convention in Adelaide, which was a shame. So, our members are really looking forward to getting back to the Gold Coast and having a really fantastic time here in this sunny weather. So, we’re really thankful for the grants because we have members across Australia and it’s very expensive to attend these conventions, to bring the equipment and technologies that we find that are used in businesses all around Australia. So, thank you very much Minister and Ange.

Tehan: Thanks, Christie, thanks, Kos and thanks, Adrienne. And, to support the program that we’re running – our $50 million Business Events Program – we’re also going to be launching this weekend a ‘Event Here This Year’ marketing campaign to support our $36 billion industry, and that will start this Sunday and it goes on the back of what we’ve been doing to encouraging domestic tourism through our ‘Holiday Here This Year’ program. So, this ‘Event Here This Year’ program will be launched on Sunday. It’s a marketing campaign to support the $50 million campaign we’re running for business events. Happy to take any questions.

Journalist: Minister, is the $50 million, is it new funding, a new commitment, or is it existing funding that you’re just trying to raise awareness of so businesses can apply?

Tehan: So, the $50 million is a program that we launched late last year. We’ve now got about 190 businesses that have subscribed to the program for their business event. But, what we want to do is encourage other people who are holding business events to also to subscribe because what it will mean is that anyone who attends your event could get up to $10,000 or even up to $250,000 to come to your event. So, what we’re trying to do is raise awareness of the program, get more events to subscribe and, on the back of that, also what we’re announcing today is we’re going to be running a ‘Event Here This Year’ marketing campaign to also support business events right across this nation.

Journalist: Tourism operators are very concerned about the end of JobKeeper, obviously happening very soon. What’s your response to those operators who are concerned, who say there really needs to be ongoing, targeted support for the tourism industry?

Tehan: So, what I’ve been doing this week is visiting the wonderful locations that you have here in Queensland – I’m here in the Gold Coast today, I was here last night. I’ve been to the Whitsundays, I’ve been to Cairns, been to Port Douglas, talking to the Queensland tourism industry to hear from the coalface what are the challenges that they’re facing at the moment and what sort of support they would like post JobKeeper. The Government has been clear that JobKeeper will end at the end of March but, what we’ve also made clear is that we want to continue to provide support to the tourism sector as it deals with a lack of international tourists and also the challenges of these snap border closures. So, the reason I’m here in Queensland this week is to hear from the coalface, to listen. I’ll be doing more of that when I’m meeting with the Gold Coast tourism industry immediately after this press conference. I want to hear their views, what they think is needed. One of the clear messages, clear messages that I’ve received through all those tourism operators I’ve spoken to over the last week is that what they really want is the tourists back – that is what they’re looking for. They want the tourists back. So, as part of the message I'll be taking back to Canberra where I’ll be talking to my colleagues is that we need to be doing everything we can to support tourists coming back to Queensland and coming back to the wonderful locations we have right across this nation.

Journalist: What were your thoughts when you heard the news this morning from the European Commission about, you know, proving the shipment of vaccines to Australia?

Tehan: Look, it’s absolutely wonderful news that the vaccines are on time and will be rolled out at the end of this month. I met with the European Union Ambassador last week. He assured me that the vaccines would arrive on time and to have this confirmed today is just wonderful news and will give great confidence right across the nation but, in particular, to our tourism sector.

Journalist: Have you been given a specific date for when Australian shipments of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive?

Tehan: Look, I don’t know the specific dates as yet. My understanding is that they are being provided to the Government but we have to obviously wait and see because shipping times can delay by 12 hours, 24 hours, they might even arrive earlier. So, we’re just working through those final logistics but the great news is that the vaccine is leaving Europe and that we will be commencing our vaccines on time. And, can I just mention the Convention Centre here because it’s going to be one of the places where the vaccine will be delivered here in the Gold Coast, and I commend the Convention Centre for the various roles that they’re playing, why things are tough here, why we’re not seeing the business events that would occur at the rate that they normally they would. So, they’re looking to pivot and look for other revenue and becoming a place where the vaccine will be rolled out I think is a wonderful initiative.

Journalist: So, at this stage it’s looking like the end of the month, or when do you expect to, I guess, have those details finalised to be able to announce a date?

Tehan: So, Minister, the Minister for Health Greg Hunt will be announcing those final details and he will make it very clear to all Australians exactly when the vaccine program will start, what day, how he’s working collaboratively and cooperatively with state and territory governments on the rollout. But, we are on track for the end of this month, the vaccines are leaving Europe. It’s a wonderful day to provide wonderful confidence to the Australian people, and, in particular, to the tourism industry and all those people who work in what is a 666,000 worker industry should be very happy today, because our recovery is really kickstarting again with this wonderful news.

Journalist: Can you tell us what the Federal Government is doing to help Australian exporters who have lost trade with China, due to a series of trade sanctions last year?

Tehan: So, there’s two key things we’re doing. Just before Christmas we announced the $70 million program to help those exporters be able to diversify their markets and that $70 million program is up and running and the second thing we’re doing is we’re looking for further opportunities for our exporters; and, in particular, looking for further free trade agreements, which help them get their exports into markets at a cheaper rate. And, only last night I was talking to the UK Minister for Trade Liz Truss about our free trade agreement with the UK. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking to the European Union Trade Minister about our free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union. And, what those free trade agreements will do is provide us with access to another 500 million consumers at cheaper rates for our exporters. So, we’re helping and supporting our exporters but we’re also, at the same time, improving the markets that they can get access to.

Journalist: You said you’re looking at ways to support tourism operators once JobKeeper ends. Would that include financial assistance, perhaps rebranded under some other scheme?

Tehan: So, we’re looking at all options. I’ve been very, very clear in going out and talking to the sector and to operators right across Queensland that I want to hear from them what their thoughts are, what their suggestions are. We’ve made it clear that JobKeeper is going to end at the end of the month, but I’ve really wanted to make sure that I’m out listening, trying to get suggestions, hear what the issues are. One thing that’s come to me loud and clear is that the snap border closures are killing confidence and killing confidence in people’s want to travel. And, so, one of the things they’ve pleaded with me is to keep talking to tourism ministers right across this nation and impressing upon them to make sure that their governments can have their contact tracing up to speed, their testing up to speed, so border closures become a last, last resort because, if we can get confidence back people will travel, and what the industry wants more than anything is tourists. And, that’s what we want to try and give to the tourism industry because if we can give the tourism industry tourists, then they can start earning the dollars they need to support the jobs that they support in the industry.

Journalist: Do you think the Queensland Premier has a point that places like the Gold Coast, the Whitsundays and the reef, they rely really heavily on international tourists that we’re not going to see for a long time?

Tehan: Well, there are some parts of the Queensland tourism industry that obviously depend on international tourists and there are some parts that depend on domestic tourists, and right across the nation domestic tourism plays a far greater role in supporting jobs than international tourists do. But, what we have to do is we’ve got to work together, the Federal Government and the Queensland Government, to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to get tourists back to Queensland, just like I need to work with every other state and territory government to get tourists back to their locations. And, what we really need is a way that we can make border closures a last resort, because if we can do that we’ll put confidence into people to travel, and that means dollars will come into local economies like here in the Gold Coast and, my real hope is with this wonderful news that we’ve got on the vaccine, is that we’ll see that confidence to travel come back and we’ll see state and territory governments really use their contact tracing and their testing regimes rather than border closures, and we’ll see a domestic tourism surge in this nation and that will help those 666,000 jobs.

Journalist: Adrienne, I’ve just got a question for you quickly. How many business events did the Convention Centre have, how many would they typically have in a year, and how many did you have last year?

Readings: Typically, we have about 200 events. Last year we had about 25 and that was because we repurposed the centre, as well. So, as most of you would know, part of our centre was turned over into a movie studio. That is typically not something that we would do but, because of the mass cancellations or postponements in some accounts, we were able to provide a large area for a studio to come in and film over a five-month period and that certainly helped us and sustained the employment here and provided the income that we actually needed to do that. Apart from that, majority of the events that we had in-house were from local and Queensland, where 85 per cent of our business comes from national. So, yeah, so, with the borders closed, to the Minister’s point, the confidence with the borders opening and shutting on a regular basis has led to a number of cancellations or postponements so we need to have the certainty of the borders remaining open to ensure that long-term business events can plan their events. Because, you may not realise but it takes about six months for an organisation to plan an event to come to one of these centres. So, not having that confidence, then having the forecast six months out of rolling and cancellations or postponements. So, we’ve got to get back to using the hotspots in those cases and not the hard border closures.

Journalist: Can you put a value on, or like a dollar figure, on the loss of those events? Like, what are we talking, what sort of loss is that?

Readings: We’re talking economic impact of around about $160 to $200 million.

Journalist: And, that’s just for the centre here?

Readings: That’s right.

Journalist: It’s big.

Readings: It’s big because we lost the majority of the economic impact because it’s the national and international that drive economic impact, it’s not the local business.

Journalist: How confident are you going forward this year?

Readings: Cautious. We certainly am more optimistic. We have got a number of large nationals, two of which are standing behind me, but it takes the confidence and brave people to actually bring their events out, and also think outside the square of face-to-face and virtual. So, adding those elements rather than just immediately going to cancel. So, it’s just asking business events to think a little differently through this period of time.

Tehan: Thank you everyone.

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