Interview on Sky News Live, Paul Murray, with Paul Murray
Paul Murray: Simon Birmingham is the Tourism Minister at the federal level and he too thinks it is your patriotic duty, your national duty tonight, to book a holiday in Australia asap.
Paul Murray: Now, way back when it was the old Peter Costello who used to say about babies and baby bonuses — it was have one for yourself, have one for the country. Could we say the same about a long weekend now? Where you have a Friday and Saturday for yourself, but Sunday and Monday you do it for the country?
Simon Birmingham: It's not a bad way of putting it, you know. Look, for Australians who are fortunate enough to be able to do so, where their income and employment situation allows and their health allows, really getting out there and travelling across this great country of ours is virtually a patriotic duty right now. Because one in 13 Australian jobs depends on our tourism industry in one way, shape, or form. And the tourism industry has been battered, beaten, and bruised by the COVID-19 pandemic, all for entirely justifiable reasons in terms of the safety of Australians and suppressing that curve.
But we do want to try to get these businesses back up off the floor and help them out. And as economies are reopening across states, and the states are gradually taking those steps to reopen those interstate borders the best thing that can happen for our tourism industry right now is for people to make bookings, part with some cash, undertake those trips, and spend up while they're out there because you might actually be helping to save the job of the small business of a fellow Australian.
Paul Murray: Because what people- most people I'm sure watching understand this but a lot of other people maybe don't. There might be that wonderful coffee shop that you love in Kangaroo Island and every time you go every couple of years, so you look forward to going to that one coffee shop. Well the problem is, for it to be there in two years’ time, you need to go and support it now The same goes for the lovely little restaurant that of course is in the Kimberley, or that lovely little thing that you like to sit seaside in Queensland. Whatever it is, whatever one of your favourite things about an Australian holiday is, you need to guarantee that it's going to be there for you in the future and that means, these coming school holidays, book.
Simon Birmingham: Absolutely. And you know, it's not even the things that you see upfront, it's remembering that there are the laundry services that support the hotels, and motels, and accommodation providers. And there's the cleaning services, there's a whole range of different back of house operations. And then there's the entire ecosystem in those regional communities where the local mechanic, and the local repair shop, and every other local business depends very much on the fact that if the tourism industry is thriving then so too will all of the other low end businesses that rely upon it. And so you really are helping so many different parts of the economy by getting out there, but you can have a great time as well.
And that's the wonderful thing about spruiking a tourism trip at present. Yes, it's been a really tough time for the industry but the one thing I know about Australian tourism operators is they like nothing more than showing their guests a fantastic time, and they are just ready and enthusiastic to do so. You know I've already, for the next school holidays, planned a few days on Kangaroo Island — a promise I made at the start of the year when the Island was ravaged by bushfires — taking the family across there, spending a few days, looking forward to supporting as many attractions as we can, including some of those who traditionally rely on international visitors because we really do need to think about those fire affected regions, but also those regions that are heavily dependent on international visitation and really do need our additional support right now in terms of our domestic travel.
Paul Murray: Well this is the thing, I mean KI — not a huge trip for you to make from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island — but as you say I mean, this thing we're talking about first and second waves, this is a joint that's been whacked multiple times — lost a third of it to bushfires and now of course the international travelers there as well.
So I would suggest that one of the things that we can start to do is, if you've got school holidays coming up think about a road trip, like a good old fashioned road trip. Might be a little hard to physically drive, you know, to islands, but still you get my point. You know we all, at one point, grew up with the three, four, or five hour drive, exactly should be happening for all of us at least for one of the next upcoming couple of weeks?
Simon Birmingham: You bet. And all of those little small towns that you stop in to buy a coffee, grab an ice cream for the kids, pick up a pie, or pasty, you know, they're all just such important parts of generating economic activity in those communities. And yep, you need to sort of show a commitment to plan to be a long weekend for the October school holidays, to head over to the Eyre Peninsula on South Australia. Packing the kids up in the car for that six, seven hour drive to head across and ultimately to have some amazing oysters at Coffin Bay, to see some of the most pristine beaches in the world.
But of course what I also really want to see is that, as the interstate boarders come down, we can all start to plan to get on some planes too, because we don't want a circumstance where governments are having to endlessly prop up our airlines in Australia. What we want is for paying passengers to be back on them, travelling across this country. And so, as it safe to do so across virtually all of the Australian states, people ought to now start to plan those trips as these state travel restrictions come off, and enable people to get out in the car across their own state, or to fly within their state if it needs it. But then ultimately, to hopefully plan some bigger trips up to North Queensland where we've got industries that are so incredibly reliant on international visitors — they don't have any of those international visitors at present. And just having Queenslanders head north won't be sufficient for Tropical North Queensland either, we've got to make sure we get some Mexicans, as they say, to head up that way too.
Paul Murray: Your patriotic duty — you heard the Minister say it on the behalf of the government — your patriotic duty is to book a holiday somewhere tonight. Do it right now. Minister, thank you very much.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, mate, my pleasure.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555