Interview with Today Show

11 Mar 2021
Prime Minister

Karl Stefanovic: PM, good morning to you. Thank you for your time. 

Prime Minister: G'day Karl.

Stefanovic: Is this package anywhere near enough?

Prime Minister: Well, we believe it is. This is taxpayers putting an additional $1.2 billion, 800,000 additional tourists getting into the regions most effected by international tourism. This is keeping our airlines and the employees in those airlines - I mean, to get, they’ve got to get planes in the sky, we have got to get tourists on the ground and that's what’s going to keep people in their jobs. I mean, we put billions and billions into supporting these industries over this past year and that's got us to where we are now. This is going to get us over the next hump as we move into these next few months. We’ve got people going on school holidays. What the tourism industry needs is more tourists, and it’s a $100 billion industry, the domestic tourism industry. And just like we have seen in many parts of within states where people have been getting in their cars and going to those tourists destinations, we need to get these fights to those more far-flung areas in Cairns, the Gold Coast, in Kangaroo Island, down there in northern Tasmania and ensuring that those visitors are getting there. Because every dollar spent on a ticket in the air is about $10 spent on the ground and that's what the industry needs right now. 

Allison Langdon: Prime Minister, I mean, looking at this package, and there are 13 specific locations that you have talked about here, it is for interstate travel only, we had Graham Turner on the show just moments ago and his language was really strong – just take a listen to what he had to say.

Audio: “There is nothing in it for us. I don't think it will help tourism either, unfortunately.”

Langdon: I mean, they’re pretty strong words Prime Minister that someone within the industry is saying that this isn't going to work.

Prime Minister: Well, plenty of others in the industry are saying the opposite, and he’s entitled to his opinion. But $1.2 billion which includes direct support further to travel agents over the months ahead as we have already put in hundreds of millions to support those travel agents, that's taxpayer's money going directly to support travel agents’ businesses. So, I’m sure travel agents as they’ve said to us have been appreciative that their fellow Australians paying their taxes, are supporting them at this time and we are going to keep doing that. But the tourism industry needs tourists. That's why 800,000 tickets is about getting those tourists to those places where the money is spent on the ground. Now, those cut-price tickets means the airlines will work ,together with the industry, the travel agents, do what they do best, package the product up, get it to their customers, get people in their doors, start selling these packages and tickets and keeping the Australian tourism industry moving during a very difficult time 

Stefanovic: PM, what Skroo Turner is saying is that 800,000 tickets doesn't even touch the sides. It is just not enough.

Prime Minister: Well, I just don't agree with him, Karl. Taxpayers putting out $1.2 billion to help that sector I'm sure would think that that is a very important thing for them to do to support these sectors. But as we have always shown, Karl, all the way through, it’s always been targeted. We’ve watched the data. If there are different locations we need to add to this, we will. And we’ll work with the industry to see what is going on. But there’s a plane standing behind me – they’re going to rip the coverings off those planes and that plane is going back into the air because of what we’re doing today. I mean, over 20 airlines have gone bust over the course of the pandemic, Karl. Our airlines have stayed in the air and we’ve kept them in the air. Those planes you’re seeing flying around – we’ve been subsidising those flights now for the past year and we’re going to keep doing that, because if the planes are in the air the tourists are on the ground and that means people are in their jobs.

Langdon: Ah, but Prime Minister, I mean, no-one doubts the enormous effort that’s been put in so far and how you have saved those industries to this point, but Skroo Turner is not alone, we had Margy Osmond on the show, she’s the Forum Chief of Tourism and Transport. We’ve been speaking to operators in Far North Queensland who are saying they’re gutted, they’re furious with this. They’re also saying we’re going to see mass job losses at the end of March, that that’s not enough to stem that. Would you disagree with that?

Prime Minister: Well, I do. And we’ll see this work out as we move over the next few months, and we have been very responsive with all of the programs that we’ve run over the past year and we’ve watched them very closely. But this is the package we have pulled together, and this is particularly for these sectors recognising that they need this additional support and Australian taxpayers are providing that additional support. And they are giving them that leg up and Australians themselves will put their hands in their own pockets and be paying the other half of these tickets and getting themselves and their families and going to these places and supporting Australian tourism businesses through the period. So, I'm positive about it. And I think the way to approach this, as we’ve always been, is to be positive about embracing these initiatives, working with them, getting on with it, keeping people in their jobs, focussing forward.

Stefanovic: The problem is you have no control over the borders with the states and also international tourism is not opening up because of the reopening of the borders. So if you don't control that, then what do you control long-term?

Prime Minister: Well, you make a very good point about the domestic borders and 2021 is different to 2020. In 2021, what’s appropriate with state borders, I think, is completely different, particularly with the vaccination program rolling out. And both of the airlines have said pretty plainly, um, that for this to work best the states have to keep their borders open. Now, this package has been put together because we do know the international borders will remain closed and that's why there is 8,500 international aviation jobs specifically being protected through the package that we’re announcing today. We need to keep those people in those jobs and in those airlines because we can't have them sort of waste away. We need to ensure those airlines are there internationally when those borders open up again, at a much greater level than they are now. So we’re keeping that capacity, we are keeping those skills and those jobs in our international aviation sector. This is a large number of jobs. We‘re standing where many of them are here today in Sydney but they’re up in Brisbane, they are all around the country. And the fact we’ve kept so many aviation workers in their jobs is a marked contrast to what is happening all around the world.

Langdon: Now Prime Minister, just before you go, because we know you are a busy man, our vaccine roll-out is behind schedule. Are you still confident of meeting that deadline of October and will you consider NSW help to help to speed things up?

Prime Minister: Well, yes, Brendan Murphy tells me, just as recently as yesterday, yes, October, that's the date and we are comfortable with that. And we’re working with all the states and territories. Right now we’re focussing on the most vulnerable. We have over 100,000 people who have been vaccinated and some of those from next week will start on the Pfizer vaccine going through to their second dose from next week. The states and territories were part of the planning. And when we get to the next phase, which is when our Australian-made vaccines are coming off the production line, that's when it will go to a whole new level of scale and that's where there will be a lot more – over, I think 4,000 or thereabouts GPs who are involved in that process. And so, the key is, it’s not a race, right. It’s not a competition. You’ve got to do it safely, you’ve got to do it carefully and you’ve got to do it in partnership. And that's what we are doing. We’re vaccinating Australia, that will open Australia again, and importantly, that will be great news for the tourism industry together with the packages we’ve announced today.

Stefanovic: Good on you Prime Minister. Thanks for your time today, and how good is the sound of a jet engine first thing in the morning?

Langdon: And the smell of the fuel.

Prime Minister: I want to hear more of them and I want to see them in the skies –

Langdon: So do we.

Prime Minister: With 800,000 tourists.

Stefanovic: Same, same. Thanks PM.

Prime Minister: Good on you.