Interview on Channel Nine, Today on Saturday, with Richard Wilkins and Rebecca Maddern

Topics: Tourism Australia’s holiday gifting campaign, China’s tariffs on Australian wine.

Rebecca Maddern: Welcome back to Weekend Today. The January-December holiday period last year was worth a whopping $4.1 billion to New South Wales, $3.4 billion to Victoria but this year, obviously, things will look very, very different.

Richard Wilkins: That’s why this morning Tourism Australia has launched their new holiday gifting campaign encouraging us to give the gift of domestic travel to a loved one instead of a present under the tree. Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham joins us this morning. Thank you for coming on the show, Minister. Sounds like a pretty good idea. Tell us about holiday gifting.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks for the opportunity. Australia’s tourism industry has done it so tough this year but finally we’ve got interstate borders reopening again and the message we want to give out to Australians is: You live in the best gift shop in the world. There are incredible experiences so why not give your loved one or your friends an interstate trip, book them an experience somewhere else across the country, an Indigenous cultural experience in Kakadu, go learn how to surf on the Byron Bay coast, head down to Tassie and learn to make whisky or if you’re the real adventure seeker or thrill seeker go diving with the sharks in the shark cage at Port Lincoln in SA. A range of different opportunities that people can do…

Rebecca Maddern:  No thanks.

Simon Birmingham:  There’s something for everyone, that’s the thing. Go to a cooking lesson in another capital city… for shark. No.

Rebecca Maddern: Yeah, look, there are so many great ideas. And I think there’s so many people watching the show this morning saying: I have not had the opportunity to explore Australia as I would like to. So this is your opportunity. I reeled off some really important figures there in terms of $4.1 billion to New South Wales and $3.5 billion to Victoria. How important is this December holiday period for our tourism industry?

Simon Birmingham: Look, it’s critically important. One in 13 Australian jobs rely on our tourism and hospitality industries. These are the sectors that have been really battered during the course of this year but there is a chance now to give back, to travel during the break, but also to give gifts that plan travel right throughout the course of next year. So, go and visit or seek your own inspiration online and you will find that there’s something for everyone and that this is a gift you can give that ensures your loved one has a fabulous time but also you’re helping to save the job and business of a fellow Australian.

Richard Wilkins: Simon, the priority right at the moment is obviously domestic travel. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce this week says he reckons international travel will be on hold until at least July. Everything is happening pretty quickly right now. Is that your prediction too?

Simon Birmingham: It’s certainly still going to take a while for international travel. We are one of the best-placed countries in the world in terms of healthcare and the way we’ve managed to suppress COVID, in terms of the economic response and in terms of preparation for owning and distributing vaccines as they become available. That’s still going to take time to make sure we do it safely and comprehensively. So that means Australians won’t be hopping on the international flights any time too soon. So think about the domestic holiday experiences and don’t just make a short weekend drive trip away from home. Plan a proper break. Hop on a plane, go interstate. The borders are now open, the tourism operators have got generous terms and conditions in case anything happens to make sure you get your money back. So you can do it with confidence, head across the country and help support an industry that’s so crucial to our nation.

Rebecca Maddern: Simon, practice what you preach. Where are you going?

Simon Birmingham: I’m reckoning that sneaking away mid-year next year down to Tassie might be a good chance. Hopefully over the summer period maybe we’ll sneak on up to New South Wales or Queensland and enjoy a bit of surf somewhere.

Richard Wilkins: Simon, just finally, China’s levies on Australian wine exports, 212 per cent. Do you still plan to take Australia’s complaint to the World Trade Organisation?

Simon Birmingham: We’ll defend the integrity of our wine industry the whole way through. So first off that means continuing with all the domestic processes in China and appealing their erroneous findings. They’ve made this decision based on false evidence, false understanding of the circumstances. Australian wine that goes into China is in fact the second-highest-priced wine in China. It is the highest price point in the world in which we sell large quantities of Australian wine. In no way are we dumping or subsidising it there. We want to prove that case ideally in China and settle with them, but ultimately through the WTO if need be.

Richard Wilkins: All right, thank you for your time, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham, we appreciate you coming on the show. Have a good weekend.

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