Press conference with Karen Andrews, Stuart Robert, Angie Bell and Michael Kelly in Gold Coast, Queensland

  • Transcript
  • Karen Andrews, Member for McPherson
  • Stuart Robert, Member for Fadden
  • Angie Bell, Member for Moncrieff 
  • Michael Kelly, General Manager of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Gold Coast, Queensland
Subjects: Tourism and aviation support package, Return of international tourists, Carbon border tax permits, West Australian island mining licence, Foreign investment in Australia
12 March 2021

Karen Andrews: Good morning. It's an absolute pleasure to be back here at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and to have with me the Tourism Minister Dan Tehan, my Gold Coast colleagues – Minister Stuart Robert, Angie Bell, the Member for Moncrieff. And, of course we also have here the General Manager of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Michael Kelly. So, there has been a significant announcement from the Federal Government that will support tourism, not just here on the Gold Coast, but right across Australia. Now, a few weeks ago we had Minister Tehan here on the Gold Coast meeting with many of our stakeholders. He's taken on board the advice that he's received from them and for other parts of the sector across Australia, and has been able to deliver a significant package to support tourism. Now, here on the Gold Coast we understand how important tourism is for us. So, we have been quite badly hit over the last 12 months by the impacts of COVID. So, this package – the $1.2 billion dollar package that was announced yesterday – will make a great deal of difference to us here on the Gold Coast. Now, what I'd like to do is introduce Michael Kelly to speak specifically about the impact of that package on Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and more broadly on the sector.

Michael Kelly: Thank you, Minister, and welcome Minister to the Gold Coast and to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. It's great to welcome you here and welcome you back to the Gold Coast, as well. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuaries have been here for 73 years, and throughout history we've obviously been pivotal in driving tourism on the Gold Coast. And, obviously 2020 was quite a challenging year for us. So, you know, having the support of the Federal Government, both through the Federal Government's JobKeeper program, but also through the Zoo and Aquarium support package, has been really vital in ensuring that we can continue to do the amazing work that we do here at the sanctuary, but also that we do, we continue the work that we do through our Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, with the treating and rehabilitating, and then, ultimately, releasing those animals back into the wild. So, the announcement yesterday in regards to the extension of that support package is really fantastic news for both, both here at the Sanctuary, but also for zoos and aquariums across Australia. Zoos and aquariums in Australia welcome over 20 million people through their gates every year, and they're vital in educating our community in all the facets of wildlife here in Australia. But, more importantly, they also support critical breeding and release programs, as well as research and conservation programs, to ensure the survival of our threatened and endangered species. So, this type of package really ensures that we continue the high-level work that we can do in all those spaces to ultimately ensure the survival of those species, as well. So, on behalf of all of the zoos and aquariums across Australia, I really do thank the Government for their support in this because, you know, we are a vital sector that really did need some assistance over the last 12 months, in particular. Also, we welcome the announcement yesterday in regards to tourism and the extra capacity into flights. Gold Coast has been one of those hard-hit destinations, and certainly we look forward to welcoming all those visitors back to the Gold Coast to enjoy this amazing destination that we have here on the Gold Coast. So, thank you Minister for joining us, and thanks for coming to Currumbin.

Journalist: Michael, sorry, can we just ask if you think that this package will result in a boost to visitor numbers here to Currumbin?

Kelly: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, we obviously see, you know, we'd love to see more people back to the Gold Coast, and that extra capacity through flights is important to get people to the Gold Coast to really enjoy the destination that we have here. We have some of the best attractions going in Australia here, and such a diverse array of attractions from theme parks through to eco-tourism products and the like, so we look forward to welcoming people back.

Dan Tehan: Thanks, Mike. Thanks Karen and Stuart and Ange, and it's wonderful to be back on the Gold Coast. I was here a month ago liaising and engaging with the tourism industry here, and can I thank the Cairns, sorry, can I thank the Gold Coast tourism industry, can I thank those people in the tourism industry in Cairns, can I thank those people in the tourism industry in the Whitsundays, because the engagement that I had right across Queensland was absolutely vital in me putting this package together with my Cabinet colleagues and with the Coalition Government. And, the key message I heard as I was in the Gold Coast, I was in the Whitsundays, I was in Cairns, was that what they wanted back, more than anything else, was tourists — and so, what we designed yesterday was a package to deliver tourists to our key destinations right across Australia, and in particular, here in Queensland. 800,000 discounted flights – that's 46,000 discounted flights a week that Australians will be able to capitalise on and what we want to see from Australians as they grab these discounted flights is to make sure the money they save on the flights goes to restaurants, goes to clubs, goes to tourist attractions, goes to visitation to the wonderful destinations right across our nation. And, we know if that occurs the 600,000 jobs in our tourism industry will be supported and will be protected — and that's what this package is all about.

There are also some specific measures that I also want to detail this morning. As Mike has mentioned, our very successful Zoo and Aquarium package – $94 million – will now be extended to the end of the year — and what that has meant is sanctuaries, like here at the Gold Coast, have been supported to the tune of $1.2 million, so that that care can go to the wildlife. And we see it here, and we've got examples right here in front of us, that we can make sure that that wildlife is cared for while, in particular, we wait for international tourists to return. So, our Zoos and Aquariums package – that $94 million package – will be extended to the end of the year.

We're also extending, by another three months, our travel agents package. Now, the initial travel agents package was $128 million. We're putting in another $128 million to support our travel agents, and we're making some important changes to that package, as well. For instance, the minimum payment that goes to a travel agent will rise from $1,500 to $5,000. So, a big increase in the minimum payment that will go to our travel agents, from $1,500 to $5,000, and I look forward to engaging with the travel agent industry as we finalise this new second round of that very successful package to make sure that we're still providing the support to the travel agents.

Also, when it comes to business events, another thing that especially I heard when I was here on the Gold Coast a month ago, was that we need to look after and support our business events. And, what we're doing, again, is extending that program, and what we now have as part of that program is business events held up until March next year will come in under that Business Events program. So, we want to make sure that we're continuing to drive visitation through business events.

So, it's wonderful to be back here on the Gold Coast. It was only a month ago I was here visiting and conversing with the wonderful tourism sector here on the Gold Coast. What I, the message I want to give to all Australians, is book those discounted flights. Get moving again, get travelling, and when you do get travelling, make sure you dip your hand in your pocket and spend. Come to wonderful attractions like we're here visiting this wildlife today. That's what we want to see. There are attractions like this right across our nation. Get out there, visit them, and support our tourism industry. Thank you, and I'll hand over to Minister Robert.

Stuart Robert: Thank you Trade Minister for coming along. As you can see, we love the Gold Coast and how good is the Gold Coast. My Gold Coast colleagues [inaudible], and we're so thrilled to see the Tourism Minister back here again this month, and you've been warmly welcomed by Ginger the koala, by alpine dingoes, black headed pythons and owls. And, these are all the animals that the aquarium package has been supporting …

Tehan: I'll just say isn't it wonderful – flights in the air delivering people around the country. It's wonderful. Every flight that goes across is great news for our tourism industry.

Robert: Well, I can see the head of the airport corporation over there with a big smile on his face. But, we want more of them, and the 800,000 flights, 14 destinations – five of them in Queensland. Of course, the Gold Coast, the Google Search tells us, is neck and neck with Cairns. How good is Queensland. But, this confidence is really important, and I'm looking forward to working with the state governments to ensure our borders stay open, and to ensure that all Australians have the confidence if they book a ticket, the Queensland border will stay open. And, I know the Queensland state government wants to have their borders open, and I'm looking forward to that firm commitment as we roll out the vaccine schedule. So, all Australians can book with enormous confidence and come here to Currumbin, come to the Gold Coast, come to Cairns, and so many other destinations right across Australia. But, Tourism Minister, thank you for your announcement, it's extraordinarily welcome.

Angie Bell: Thank you, and I thank my colleagues today for being here on the Gold Coast, and the Minister for coming back so quickly, just a month after we engaged with tourism stakeholders on the Gold Coast around extra support measures. This is the bridge that the Gold Coast tourism industry was asking for. The Federal Government has now delivered that bridge to the industry. But, it's not just about tourism. It's about business events. It's about zoos and aquariums. And, it is about local business, it's about coffee shops, it's about taxi drivers, and it's about holding up our local economy. So, I thank the Minister and I think my Cabinet colleagues for what they have delivered for the Gold Coast here today. Thank you.

Tehan: Okay, we're happy to take questions.

Journalist: Minister, do you have a timeline on when we're likely to see international tourists return?

Tehan: So, my hope is that we can continue the very successful rollout of the vaccine, and we will start to see international tourists come back towards the end of the year, and hopefully we will have the international borders open by the start of next year, fully, so we can really start welcoming back those international tourists — the international students that drive international tourism, as well — so, that's the timeline. Unfortunately, when you're dealing with a pandemic, you can't have a perfect crystal ball. So, obviously, we'll continue to monitor and observe, we'll see how the vaccine rollout is taking place across the globe. But, my hope is we would start to see international tourists back towards the end of this year, and hopefully we're in a place to really welcome back international tourists at the beginning of next year.

Journalist: Why didn't the Government include Darwin and Adelaide in the initial subsidy scheme? They were only added late yesterday, I understand.

Tehan: So, we had 13 locations. What we did was we announced 10 of them to really get some hype and activity going, and really get people engaged but it was always, if you look at the media release that went out yesterday morning, it was always 13 destinations and that's why Darwin and Adelaide were added. And, as I've said, these aren't set in stone.  We're going to work, continue to work with the aviation sector and if there are other destinations we need to add, we will do that. This is about giving people the confidence to travel, because if people have the confidence to travel, we know the want and the will's there and we know that they will travel. There's a real pent-up demand amongst Australians at the moment to travel. So, this is about stimulating that demand, giving people confidence, and supporting wonderful regions right across this nation, such as the Gold Coast here.

Journalist: Are you going to be forced to add more destinations?

Tehan: This isn't about being forced to add anything, this is about supporting our tourism industry. We want a Team Australia approach to this, and can I say, it's wonderful that the airlines have backed it in. One of the airlines today has announced their own discount flights ahead of what we're doing to get people moving again. This is all about Team Australia, everyone putting their shoulder to the wheel, and we want the states and territory governments to do it again. Wouldn't it be wonderful that they were positive in reacting to this and said, ‘Yeah, we're gonna back this in. We're going to put voucher schemes in place, we're going to do our own discount ticketing, we're going to really back and support this,' because if we had that and a really Team Australia approach, everyone being positive, I can tell you, people will be going across Australia like we've never seen before. And, that's wonderful for our tourism sector.

Journalist: What's the process of adding locations to the list? Is it being done ad hoc? [inaudible]

Tehan: No. So, what we've said we'll do is we're going to work with the aviation sector. They've identified key routes that need stimulating, that really need that demand, and once we see that demand back in full, we're going to look at other destinations. So, this is all about working together. This is all about continuing to consult with the aviation sector, it's about consulting with the tourism industry to make sure that we're doing everything we can to stimulate demand. But, it might be that the aviation sector says, ‘Well, we're going to continue to provide discount tickets ourselves on particular routes,' so that means that we will look at other routes. So, this is all about making sure we're all working together, supporting each other, and as I've said, especially if we can get a Team Australia approach to this – everyone being incredibly positive about this $1.2 billion announcement – I think we're going to have Australians travelling everywhere to explore their own backyard, because you will not find a better backyard anywhere in the world than what we've got here in Australia.

Journalist: Why were cities like Melbourne and Sydney not included in the package?

Tehan: So, once again, we worked with the aviation sector to design which routes we wanted to support. When it comes to Melbourne and Sydney in particular, if you have a look there are already very good discounting going on on those routes, and we're starting to see demand really pick up on those routes. So, this was all done in consultation and, once again, you know, the New South Wales and Victorian State Governments could really back this in by offering vouchers for accommodation in Melbourne and Sydney, making sure that they're promoting the wonderful offerings that they've got. We did that through Tourism Australia last week. So, the Federal Government has already stepped in and has done, played part of its role. We launched a very successful ‘visit our capital cities campaign' through Tourism Australia. So, we're doing our bit. We want the states and territories to do their bit. And, we're sure then people will be heading back to our capital cities, like they'll be heading back to here in the Gold Coast.

Journalist: We've spoken to operators in places like Batemans Bay. What is your message today to operators that, in places that have missed out?

Tehan: If we get people moving, and if we give people the confidence to move, Batemans Bay will be the recipient of more tourists, and they will benefit from this as well. Got to remember, this is about putting confidence in people's want and will to travel and, if we do that, people will go to all the destinations across Australia. And, one of the things that we've got to remember in Australia, and it makes it hard when you're the Federal tourism industry, is you cannot support and provide stimulus to every single destination right across Australia. And what we've seen, especially those destinations three or four hours' drive from a capital city, they've done incredibly well through the pent-up demand for intrastate travel and this is about getting interstate travel going. But, I can tell you, there are so many wonderful destinations for us to travel to, so many great places for us to explore, and Australians want to do it. We're very curious. We love travelling. So I think we'll find in the next six to nine months people will be spreading out right across this great nation, visiting so many wonderful locations.

Journalist: Just on another topic. Can you tell us how the Federal Government will respond to the EU's plan to impose carbon levies on countries that it foresees have weak carbon emission reduction policies?

Tehan: Well, we want to take a very positive approach to this. We want to take an approach where we actually encourage trade liberalisation, not protectionism, and my big concern about the EU plan is it's all about protectionism. We know they've already got heavily subsidised industries. What we don't want to see is additional protectionist measures put in place. So, our plan is about liberalising trade in environmental goods, liberalising trade with environmental services. We think that's a positive approach to take, especially when it comes to how we deal with emissions reduction.

Journalist: Isn't the EU highlighting the fact that Australia isn't doing enough to tackle carbon emissions?

Tehan: Well, one of the things that the EU has said is they want all countries … Isn't it wonderful to see those planes going across. It's just fantastic [inaudible]. More people travelling …  One of the things that the EU has pointed to is country's commitments, both to Kyoto and to the Paris Agreements. Let me be very clear to those EU parliamentarians: we met and beat our Kyoto targets, and we're on target to meet and beat our Paris targets. So, what we want is all countries working together, so that we can collectively deal with the global issue of climate change. We don't want particular parts of the globe dealing with it in unique ways which are protectionist. We want everyone working together in a way which is very positive, and we think trade liberalisation in environmental goods and services is the way to go.

Journalist: In relation to China, are you concerned that a Chinese-linked company has been granted a mining licence on an island close to a defence training site in WA?

Tehan: Look, I'm not aware of this development, but obviously we have the Foreign Investment Review Board, which looks at all investment from any country across the world to make sure it's in the national interest. And, one of the things we've done is put a security lens now on our Foreign Investment Review Board, so I'm sure that any decision that's been taken is in Australia's national interest, because that's why we have the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Journalist: Do you understand why people would be worried about the situation though, given what happened with the Darwin Port?

Tehan: So, one of the things that we've done is strengthen the Foreign Investment Review Board to make sure that it puts a security lens across investment, wherever it comes from, to make sure that it's in Australia's national interest. And, we have one of our former intelligence officials on the Foreign Investment Review Board to make sure that that national security screening is put in place. So, I'm confident that the Foreign Investment Review Board is doing its job and making sure that all foreign investment that comes into this country is in our national interest. And, can I just say on that, we have to remember that foreign investment is in Australia's national interest. We've seen a 60 per cent decline in investment globally, and what investment does is it creates jobs, it creates innovation. We've always been a country that's welcomed foreign investment because it leads to jobs, because it leads to innovation.

Journalist: So, what guarantee can you give that that security is being maintained?

Tehan: Well, as I've said, we've made sure that we've put a very good security lens across our Foreign Investment Review Board. We've made changes specifically in that area. We've put an official on there who used to work with, who used to head one of our intelligence agencies. So, we are making sure that that lens is there, and all investment that comes into Australia has that national security lens to it, and is in Australia's national interest.

Journalist: Just have one final one, sorry. How much funding has been allocated to the International Freight Assistance Mechanism for another three months?

Tehan: So, when it comes to IFAM, it's been an incredibly successful program, and what we wanted to do and what I heard, both here on the Gold Coast and everywhere else, is that we wanted to extend it, and we're liaising with the industry at the moment to see exactly how that's, what form and shape it's going to be taking, exactly the final dollar amount is, but we are extending it because it has been incredibly successful. Thanks very much.

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