Interview on 2GB, Drive, with Jim Wilson

Topics: Australia-New Zealand travel bubble, Queensland border opening up to New South Wales from 1 November
02 October 2020

Jim Wilson: Well, as I mentioned earlier in the program, the Federal Government has announced what's described as a safe travel bubble with New Zealand. Now, initially, it'll be all one way traffic. New Zealanders will be able to visit New South Wales and the Northern Territory from 16 October; that's two weeks today. But there's no reciprocal arrangement as yet and New Zealanders heading home may still have to quarantine. Senator Simon Birmingham is the Federal Minister for Tourism and Trade, and he's on the line this afternoon.

Minister, welcome back to Drive.

Simon Birmingham: Good day, Jim. It's great to be with you.

Jim Wilson: So how does this deal come about, Minister, and how long before we can go the other way and head to New Zealand?

Simon Birmingham: Well, it's come about as a result of quite a long period of work at a range of levels. Obviously, all of the health experts working through what is a safe arrangement to make sure that New Zealand poses no risk to Australia, and then also working with all of the airport, customs, border security experts to make sure that as people come through the border through our airports from New Zealand, that they also pose no risk to one another. Or more importantly, that given we've already assessed them as being safe, that they face no risk from others coming through the airport. So we've made sure that a lot of different safety protocols are in place. Now obviously, it is also up to the New Zealanders to when and how they choose to reciprocate. They're in the middle of an election campaign at present, so it's understandable why they might hold off for another few weeks. But we hope that they will reciprocate soon, and we're also hopeful that as today's announcement includes New South Wales and the Northern Territory in an Australian context, we expect South Australia to follow pretty soon; possibly other states. And then we hope also New Zealand in that mix as well.

Jim Wilson: Well, Prime Minister Ardern has said that as far as reciprocating in us going to New Zealand, says that won't happen until it's safe to do so. Has Ms Ardern defined what safe to do so means?

Simon Birmingham: So, the Australian definition we're applying is a three-day rolling average of there being fewer than three locally acquired cases in New Zealand. So we're putting quite a low benchmark there, particularly when you think about the fact that in New South Wales, this is about recognising the fact that New Zealand is achieving a benchmark similar to what we would expect New South Wales to have been achieving in recent times, making sure that there is no greater risk from one country or state to the other. And that's exactly the type of arrangement that we want to see in place where everybody can be confident that whichever way people are flowing, whether it's from New South Wales to South Australia, or New South Wales to New Zealand, that everyone knows they're going to be safe travelling each way.

Jim Wilson: Just before I let you go, Minister. I know that this is a Queensland Government decision. Are you disappointed that the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk up there has basically said that people in New South Wales have to wait until 1 November – which is a day after their state election, by the way – to enter Queensland? Why couldn't it happen sooner?

Simon Birmingham: The approach Queensland is taking does feel excessive. If you look at a state like South Australia or the Northern Territory – you've got a Labor state in the Northern Territory, a Labor territory, a Liberal state in SA – they have both taken a very clear methodological approach, making sure that in terms of opening up to New South Wales, they've done it only when there's been sufficient consecutive days of no community transmission. And they've all- they've both found grounds to open up. So it's disappointing that Queensland is holding out even longer. I understand why people are saying it's for political purposes, and I wish that weren't the case. But I guess my hope, in terms of just saving jobs and the tourism and travel sector, is that at least we've seen some positive movement in Queensland today, and that there's a bit of a case of better late than never.

Jim Wilson: Minister, we appreciate your time on this Friday afternoon. Enjoy your long weekend.

Simon Birmingham: Mate, thanks so much, and to all of your listeners as well.

Jim Wilson: Good on you. That's Senator Simon Birmingham, who's the Federal Minister for Tourism and Trade.

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