Interview on Channel 9, Today, with Allison Langdon and Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Qantas job losses, Spike in COVID cases in Victoria, Women’s Football World Cup.
26 June 2020

Karl Stefanovic: Well, the Flying Kangaroo is wounded; 6000 workers getting the sack, and this morning, fears more jobs losses are on the horizon as the entire aviation industry fights for survival. We're joined now by Tourism and Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham, and Deputy Opposition Leader, Richard Marles. Good morning, guys. Nice to see you, Simon. Oh, look at you, you're an opportunist, are you? Eh?

Simon Birmingham: Morning Karl. Hey look, this is not a- this a glimmer of hope at the end a very dark tunnel for our tourism industry, to see the 2023 World Cup coming along. And as a father of two daughters, who woke one of them up sneaking into her bedroom to steal her Matildas scarf this morning, I'm thrilled about what this means for the recognition and respect for women's sport too.

Karl Stefanovic: Okay. We’ll get on to that a little bit later, because it is a wonderful, wonderful thing for Australia. But first of all, Simon, are you going to bail the aviation industry out?

Simon Birmingham: Well, we have been supporting the aviation industry, and, you know, these are very dark days for the aviation industry. Now, we have obviously stepped up with billions of dollars in support. The JobKeeper program, running until 27 September. We acknowledge that there are ongoing challenges aviation and tourism will face, and we are working through what future support looks like in terms of the sector there, as well as, of course, targeted specific programs. But we also want to see planes back up in the sky, and that means that we do need to see the economy get back to normal in the states where it can and opening up of those borders where they can to allow people to start moving again. Because that will get people buying air tickets and planes flying and that’s what we really need.

Allison Langdon: Richard, I mean, 6000 jobs and we're being told too that, you know, more could go. How would you have handled this? Would you have given more money sooner?

Richard Marles: Well, the Government's the ones in the chair here. But I think what's clear is that at the end of the day, when this is all over, we need to be having two airlines in this country. And the really tragic news that we’ve heard in the last 24 hours in relation to Qantas, given that Virgin was doing it tough already, just means that the Government needs to be really clear about what its plan is to make sure that there are two carriers when this is done. I think one thing is absolutely clear; the idea that JobKeeper is going to end in 94 days, you know, is an idea which I just don't think is going to survive contact with reality. But they need to be giving, the Government needs to be giving a sense of certainty to the aviation industry now that JobKeeper will extend for people in the aviation industry beyond that drop-dead deadline in September. Because the idea that it’s going to be back to normal by then is obviously wrong.

Karl Stefanovic: Simon, I am going to press you on that. You didn't answer the question about whether you’re going to specifically bail out the aviation industry. Are you going to add more to it?

Simon Birmingham: We know the aviation industry, the tourism sector are special cases in this crisis that we face. They were the first into it, and they will probably be the last out of it, particularly when it comes to international aviation. So yes, we're working through what type of additional support is necessary. JobKeeper is there until 27 September. We've made it very clear we will be announcing the future in relation to that by the end of July, and we're going to work hard to ensure that we provide what support we can. But Karl, you know, I stood on this program months ago as well and said, you know, devastatingly we wouldn't be able to save every job [audio skip] every business. Now, we must have a viable aviation industry. We will make sure we have a viable aviation industry, but this is the worst economic problem the globe has seen since the Great Depression. And it is going to continue to take extraordinary measures, which we've taken and will continue to take, to get the country through it, but we can't pretend it's going to be an easy journey either.

Allison Langdon: Yeah, I think people just need clarity on what's going to happen with JobKeeper, not at the end of next month, but they need it now.

Richard Marles: They need it now. And the point here is that Simon’s right in saying aviation is a special case. So, the question then is, well, what does that imply? Like, what is the special circumstances? What’s the special package which is going to be put in place? And I think that's the point that people are looking for from the government today.

Karl Stefanovic: What's not great, Simon, in- go on.

Simon Birmingham: Richard, we've already given hundreds of millions of dollars to the aviation sector in addition to the type of support through JobKeeper, and that is why we continue to have a look at what's necessary there. But, you know, I don't think Richard can pretend that every job can be saved, and I don't hear that he is. And I’m pleased about that because, you know, and sadly, that is terrible for the individual families. But, we do have to recognise that international flights won’t be going for quite some time to come and that’s what Alan Joyce has made clear — you need those domestic services running just to save the jobs that can be saved in the sector — and they’ve made decisions about the way they see the international market looking, not in a couple of months’ time, but next year and even the year after that.

Karl Stefanovic: No clearer. The issue is going to be you throw money at something and you know it's going to get worse? So, that money, you know, it's propping it up for the moment but it's- you're going to lose it in the end anyway in an industry that's doing it tough. Anyway, we'll get to that at another time. In terms, Simon, of the hotels in Victoria now, we have to move on to COVID in Victoria because it is terrible, you know, just psychologically, I think, even beyond the figures. How did that breach happen in the hotels in Victoria, do you know?

Simon Birmingham: Well, that's a question that that I hope the Victorian Government can get to the bottom of to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

Karl Stefanovic: Yeah. But you must have- you must- someone in Government must have asked?

Simon Birmingham: Yeah. And this will be a topic of discussion at National Cabinet today. And so, I do hope that we can get clear answers there that every state and territory can learn from. We've have obviously offered the services of the Australian Defence Force to help in terms of anything that is required in these matters, and that could include hotel quarantine support, because that is our frontline safeguard around those coming in from overseas. And we're going to need that safeguard, that safety blanket of hotel quarantine for many, many months to come, and we've got to have confidence in the way that it works. Now, it's worked exceptionally well right across the country, and we’ve got to make sure that continues to be the case and we don’t see any such leakage again.

Allison Langdon: Sending in the ADF in big numbers — yes or no?

Simon Birmingham: Sorry, I just missed the question there.

Allison Langdon: Sending in the Defence Force in big numbers in Victoria. Would you be a yes? Or a no to that?

Simon Birmingham: Look, that's a matter for the Victorian Government. If they're confident they've got the resources and the manpower, the people power on the ground, to get the job done then that's fine and fantastic. But, if they need additional support; the federal government stands willing, with the ADF, to lend that additional support.

Karl Stefanovic: It’s just that they’re all over the shop at the moment, the Victorian Government. I mean, we don’t even know what happened in the hotels and there seems to be some kind of weird cover up going on. If you’re living in Victoria you just want answers, and there is no straight talking. Dan Andrews has been great in- during this crisis, but in the last week it's kind of been all over the shop. There needs to be clarity, don't you reckon, Richard?

Richard Marles: Look, I think it’s a, it’s a really difficult issue. I think you are right that Daniel Andrews has done a great job over the journey, and in many respects he's led the nation. I actually think this is a cautionary tale, not just for Victoria, but for the whole country. If the disease is out there at any level — what this shows is that it can flare up and we need to be really vigilant about this. I mean, Simon’s right; we absolutely need — and you're right — we do need to find out the answers to what's happened in those quarantine facilities. But I think the point here is this is a really fragile situation, not just here but everywhere, and you can make a small mistake and it can have very significant consequences. And in that sense, it's really important that we are vigilant and cautious around the country, particularly in easing restrictions because we only ever want to have to do this once.

Karl Stefanovic: Simon, really, really quickly before we go. World Cup, Women's World Cup. What does that mean economically for tourism in this country?

Simon Birmingham: Look, it’s a forecast $500 million lift to our economy, but more important than that it is such a huge psychological boost. You know, finally a glimmer of hope at the end of this dark tunnel that our tourism industry is in and I'm just so thrilled — for all those who've worked on the bid, but for our tourism and hospitality industry to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that we're going to get there and get back to hosting the most magnificent events in the world, as Australia does so well.

Richard Marles: Completely agree.

Karl Stefanovic: Great guys. Thank you so much for that. Look forward to seeing who’s in government then.

Allison Langdon: Yeah.

Simon Birmingham: And go Matilda’s.

Richard Marles: Thank you. Go Matilda’s.

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