Interview on ABC Radio Adelaide Breakfast, with Ali Clarke

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Trans-Tasman travel bubble and interstate travel.
28 September 2020

Ali Clarke: Simon Birmingham is the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. Simon, we just heard from our Health Minister that the international travel bubble will be controlled by the Federal Government. Considering South Australia's done so well looking after COVID, why isn't South Australia being mentioned in any of these conversations.

Simon Birmingham: Well good morning, Ali, and listeners. SA is definitely in the mix of thinking as to how we open up with New Zealand. Australia's aspiration, our Government's desire is to see as much of Australia open up as we can safely do so, in accordance with the COVID-Safe principles. And obviously first and foremost, states need to be thinking about how they open up with one another, and Steven Marshall has done that according to a safe methodology, and successfully opened to all of the states except Victoria, and we all understand the reasons why Victoria’s different.

If we can get to that point with New Zealand, then that would be fantastic. There’s sort of a couple of strands of work there — there’s putting in place all the different safety procedures in terms of arrivals so that you don't have any flights coming from New Zealand encountering those who might have to still go into quarantine from high risk countries, you want to make sure that you keep, of course, people on those New Zealand flight safe. And so we've been working with Border Force, and Customs, and airports to prove up how that can work at different airports. And then of course there is, from the New Zealand perspective, whether or not they're going to lift quarantine and travel restrictions at their end. And I really warmly welcome the comments from Jacinda Ardern, and would assure people that when we're talking to the Kiwis we will be looking at all opportunities to safely open up — understandably Victoria coming somewhat further down the queue as everybody takes a more cautious approach there.

Ali Clarke: So, Prime Minister Ardern has said that it will be a state by state approach, as you mentioned. So then whose decision will it be ultimately? Is it ever even- So Steven Marshall, the- Premier Marshall has to put his best foot forward for South Australia, and then the Federal Government will rule on it?

Simon Birmingham: Well Ali, there’s I guess decisions by the Australian Government and decisions by the New Zealand Government. So we've been doing all the comparitry work to make sure that we can have confidence to welcome New Zealanders to Australia, and that could take, when a decision is ultimately made, a number of forms in terms of how you might lift quarantine for New Zealanders coming into Australia. But obviously if a state's open, then there's little reason for us to say that if we think the Kiwis are safe we would be happy for them to come to New South Wales, or South Australia, or otherwise.

Unsurprisingly, Jacinda Ardern and the New Zealand Government are saying they'll take a state by state approach because they would want to keep Victoria isolated at present — just as every Australian state quite rightly and understandably is. But that's not to say that South Australia can't be somewhere close to the top of that pack of states. We did previously have direct flights between Adelaide and Auckland and it would be great to see those come back on, but people do have to be able to get here as well for it to be possible.

Ali Clarke: Can you understand though the feeling that I'm seeing here on the text line? Let us dance at weddings, let us have normal service in pubs before we even think about opening up for international travel.

Simon Birmingham: I absolutely understand those sentiments, but a couple of points I'd make there. One is that New Zealand's success in suppressing COVID is absolutely commensurate with South Australia's success — so the risk profile between the two places are the same. That said, all of us — whether it's New Zealand, South Australia, the ACT, any of the regions that have had such remarkable success — do still face the risk that if COVID entered our community you want certain, certain resistance in that community to how quickly it spreads.

And so some of these measures that the state governments are keeping in place around social distancing are about making sure that, that if there is an entry point — wherever it might come from – that, that we all have confidence that it can be suppressed quickly because people are still holding up their end of certain social distancing. And I guess New Zealand itself is an interesting and good case in point there — they did have unexpected cases that came from, nobody's quite sure where I don't think yet. But they've managed to get back on top of it quickly because they had all of the resilience in their different systems.

Ali Clarke: Just quickly, Tourism Minister, as we’re up against time. Will you be sending more tourist dollars out to New Zealand than we'll be welcoming in to Australia, do you think?

Simon Birmingham: Look, Australia is a much bigger market in terms of people who could be going. So from a tourism perspective, I won't say that in terms of where the net spend lies I'd be wildly optimistic that Australia ends up as the overall beneficiary. But there is a normalisation aspect here and I can see why everybody particularly puts Christmas as a bit of a benchmark, that if these things can be done safely, again we have lots of families, loved ones who wish to be reunited.

And I think for South Australia, New Zealand is a much bigger travel market than South Australia offers. So if SA can be in and can be marketing to New Zealand, then there's more to be had for a state like SA. On a New South Wales-New Zealand basis it's a little more comparable, if not, of course, the balance lying more with more people on our side.

Ali Clarke: Okay. Thank you very much for your time.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Ali.

Ali Clarke: Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham, there.

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