Doorstop in Renmark, South Australia
Question: What have you thought of the recovery of regional Australia from COVID- in terms of tourism so far?
Simon Birmingham: There's a real buoyancy in regional tourism right now as a result of the fact that people from cities like Adelaide are eager to get out and take small breaks, and that's showing enormous opportunity for regional areas. Obviously, things like border restrictions are curtailing people's ability to go all that much further. But I'm very optimistic that across regional SA, whether it's here in the Riverland or across to the west coast or many of the other hotspots of regional tourism, they're actually seeing people getting out and about that hopefully people from Adelaide are discovering things that they had never thought about discovering before and will be stronger ambassadors for the tourism product afterwards.
Question: Yeah. I suppose you can't imagine places like the Riverland to get a lot of intrastate travelers; it's a really unique opportunity for them to attract people to the region.
Simon Birmingham: This is- COVID has created many disruptions, but businesses and communities need to look for the opportunities out of it as well. And right now, the opportunity to encourage people from Adelaide to make this their destination for short breaks, for school holiday getaways, and to discover parts of the state that they just haven't taken the time to pause or look at before is a big chance for regions like the Riverland, and. I'm certainly getting good positive feedback from many tourism operators that they are seeing a pick up, and that they're confident that those South Australian visits are going to continue right through the rest of this year.
Question: And you mentioned- you're kind of at the start of your trip. Have you been impressed with what you've seen so far in the Riverland?
Simon Birmingham: I've been lucky to make many visits to the Riverland over the years in different portfolios, but as Trade and Tourism Minister, it's one of the most important regions for me because of the fact that this is an export powerhouse. This is a great tourism attraction. And so, the Riverland has much that it contributes to South Australia's and Australia's economy in terms of earning revenue and creating jobs for Australians.
Question: Yep. And earlier this week we had the news about the anti-dumping investigation in China. Is there any message you can give to the large contingent of wine growers in the Riverland?
Simon Birmingham: I understand that issues like the Chinese investigation into dumping allegations will cause concern amongst local winemakers, and we are going to work as hard as we can together with the wine industry to mount the strongest possible case in defence of our wine industry, which isn't subsidised, doesn't dump its product on world markets, but operates purely as a world class high quality producer who actually process its product in China the second highest of any country in the world.
Question: How are you planning to continue these export relationships, especially as we have seen not only an investigation into wine but also into barley and beef?
Simon Birmingham: There are points of concern there, but we've continued to see enormous resilience despite that in our trading volumes, values and relations overall, that significant volumes of product is still entering China and many other markets. And what we're doing is equally providing more choice, more opportunity for farmers, exporters, businesses to look at different markets that they can sell their product into. And we're doing that through our increasing network of trade agreements right around the world, and also supporting them with export activities and promotion across a range of growing markets like India and others.
Question: How are you currently representing especially South Australian exporters?
Simon Birmingham: So as a proud South Australians it's always a wonderful thing to be able to spend time talking to SA based businesses and understand how I can better help them to promote South Australia's unique products, be they are wine products, our other agricultural produce or our wonderful tourism product. And I think whilst SA in sectors like wine has punched well above its weight for a long time there's a big opportunity now to grow the tourism product in the years to come. Particularly noting that I think out of COVID, many people will look for more regional experiences, more bespoke personal experiences and the different regions of South Australia are well placed to provide that.
Question: And now we are seeing tighter cross-border restrictions come into place tomorrow. This has caused quite a bit of grief not only to cross-border communities but also to farmers. Will you intervene to do anything about that?
Simon Birmingham: Well the Prime Minister has written to premiers about a number of points of concern around the application of cross-border issues and that's us recognizing that going ahead there are certain points of consideration to make sure that communities and economies can still function whilst protecting them from COVID. Now ultimately I understand the need for restrictions and [indistinct] entire thing enforced. But I trust the South Australian Government who will process and continue to process the type of exemptions necessary to enable essential travel to occur, and to not cause unnecessary disruption to local business or economic activity.
Question: Now what we have heard from farmers that have land across the border, in South Australia as well as Victoria, some of them actually had their exemptions rejected and won't be able to access their land. That will obviously have an impact on their business and trade. As Minister for Trade, what is your take on that?
Simon Birmingham: I hope that all state governments will look closely at the different examples that are [indistinct] and make sure that the exemption regimes they have are adapting to the individual circumstances and cases that come. These are unprecedented challenges; we've never seen border closures like this before in Australia but they're understandable from a health perspective. However, from an economic perspective and business continuity we do need the states and territories to handle each issue that comes up pragmatically and sensibly, and respond to it with whatever tweaks to their arrangements are necessary.
Question: And earlier this week we've heard that 300 international students will be allowed to come into South Australia as a pilot program. But cross-border communities will not be able to travel for essential services such as Medicare and education. How can that be justified?
Simon Birmingham: Well cross-border communities should be able to receive medical treatment if it's necessary and get the exemptions to be able to do that without having to face the 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine that International arrivals face. In terms of international students, they are international arrivals. They – if they come - will be required to face 14 days of mandatory supervised hotel quarantine. And they'll only becoming if South Australia continues to have excess capacity or spare capacity in its quarantine regime to accommodate them. So they won't be at the expense of Australians who might need to get into Adelaide.
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555