Press Conference - Sydney, NSW

22 Oct 2021
Sydney, NSW
Prime Minister

MR ALAN JOYCE AC, CEO OF QANTAS: It's great to have you all here at Hangar 96. We have a Qantas 787 behind us and it's great to welcome all the Qantas staff that are here today to hear what is, for us, probably the biggest and the best news that we have had in two years. We have gone through an unbelievable 20 months, so it's really great that we have the staff, the aircraft, our engineers, our pilots, our cabin crew here to hear this amazing news. I'm also very pleased to have the Prime Minister of Australia and the Premier of New South Wales. This is big news for the country and it's also big news for New South Wales in particular. As I said, this 20 months is probably the darkest period in Qantas' 100 year history. It's meant that we've had to ground aircraft, stand down people and restructure the business. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. It's very clear that because Australians have rolled up their sleeves and taken the jab, we can see that light. We're getting more aircraft back in the air. We're starting more international operations and very importantly, we're getting more of our people back to work.

In 10 days’ time, one of these 787s will depart Sydney and go to Darwin on its way London. That's the first time since March of last year that Qantas has operated long haul international regular services. And it's very fitting that in the final days of our 100th birthday that we start to count the kangaroo route again. A route that's defined Qantas for nearly 60-70 years. And a few days later, we have a flight going from Sydney to Los Angeles. Before COVID, Qantas was the largest international carrier operating in and out of Los Angeles. So having that starting again is a great step on our recovery back, to a post-COVID world. And all of this is possible because of the federal government's announcement that on the 1st of November, we'll start opening our borders again. And the New South Wales announcement that Australians fully vaccinated do not have to do quarantine in this State. And there has been a phenomenal reaction that we've seen to it. First of all, we've now moved those flights earlier because of that, and we've added 20 flights to London in particular. And demand has been massive. In a few hours, a large number of those flights sold out. There's extremely strong demand for people wanting to get back into Australia for Christmas. We've also seen now, of four of the last five weeks that Qantas's sales are bigger on the international than they have been on domestic. That hasn't happened since COVID began. And our frequent flyers have reacted unbelievably well to these announcements. Last Tuesday was the biggest day of redemptions in Qantas's history. Half a billion points were used for people to travel.

So it is very clear, there is pent up demand. There's massive demand for Australians wanting to see their family and relatives. There's massive demand for loved ones wanting to get together for Christmas. There's massive demand for people wanting to take that holiday, that they've been looking forward to for nearly two years. And the result of that demand, we are making a few announcements today that are amazingly positive for our people, amazingly positive for our customers. First of all, we're announcing that our flagship aircraft the A380 will come forward and the first one will arrive back in Australia on the 25th of December, a great Christmas present for our people. We will have a second one in place so that by April we can start Sydney-LA again, a daily service with the A380. Now, only three months ago we were planning to keep those aircraft in the desert until December 20. That's how fast things are moving and how optimistic we are to meet the demand, that we're bringing two of them forward into April of next year, one of them before Christmas, for training and crew.

Secondly, we're announcing that we're bringing forward the start date of five important markets. We're bringing Singapore operations from Sydney, forward to the end of November. We're bringing forward services to Fiji to early December. And we're bringing forward services to South Africa, to Jo'burg to early January. And to Phuket and Bangkok to middle of January. Some of those services are being brought forward by over three months. Again because we expect there is significant demand for it. And we are in dialogue with the Indonesian government and the opening of Bali for Australians that are fully vaccinated. So that you don't have to go into quarantine. Jetstar was the largest carrier operating into Bali. Australians were the largest visitors before COVID. And it'll be phenomenal news for our Jetstar people, if we can operate into Bali before Christmas and we're working with the Indonesian Government to try and do that.

We're also, very importantly, announcing that we're starting a new service from Sydney to Darwin to Delhi. This is the first time in 10 years that Qantas has gone back into the Indian market. We have been used to flying into India over the last few months, on behalf of the Australian government we've done 60 repat flights. I'd like in particular to thank our crew who are here today, a lot of them have been doing a massive amount of repat flights. Some of our crew have been continuously in quarantine. They have been separated from their families to allow Australian families to get together, to allow vulnerable Australians to get back to into the country. And talking to them earlier, they're extremely excited that they have the opportunity to fly to Delhi on a regular basis, and that service will start in early December.

We're also talking to Boeing about bringing forward three brand new aircraft [inaudible] and try to bring them forward to April of next year, which will grow our 787 fleet to allow us to do even more flying, but probably the most important part of the announcement we're making today is the implications this has for our people. We believe that domestic borders will be opened up. We've seen announcements from Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, and that gives us confidence to get to a hundred percent of pre-COVID levels domestically in January and up to 120 percent of pre-COVID levels by April. So we're proud to announce today that all of our domestic crews that have been stood down, 5,000 people, will be back at work in early December. Great news for them and their families. And the 6,000 international crew, some of which have been stood down since last March, will also be given the opportunity to work for us and start working again in early December. We will need the A380 crew back to do the training needed to get the operation up and running.

And again, I would say all of this is possible because of what the state and federal government have done. And in particular, I want to thank the federal government and the Prime Minister for the assistance packages that they've given our people. JobKeeper and then the IAS package, which has allowed those international employees to remain connected with Qantas. It's allowed them to retain that skill set. It's allowed us to really activate these aircraft earlier than we would have otherwise, if we had of lost those employees. So thank you Prime Minister for that amazing programme that's got us through this. And can I thank both of you for your leadership in opening up the borders and thank the Premier of New South Wales in particular for moving to what every other global city in the world has moved to, which is that there's no quarantine for vaccinated passengers coming in, that has given New South Wales a leading advantage and that has made New South Wales our gateway to the world. We hope that the other states will follow soon so that we can start operations out of those states internationally, like the commitment here to New South Wales. So again, thank you for being here today. I'm really pleased for our people that we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I'm really pleased for our customers that they can welcome back international travel and a significant amount of international travel from November. And I am going to hand over to the Prime Minister to make a few comments. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Alan. And to the Premier of New South Wales, Dominic Perrottet, it is great to be here with you mate. This is a wonderful day. Australia is ready for take-off. You can see it all around us. You can see the staff readying themselves. The ground crew have been doing the work they need to do, the maintenance teams. And we're ready for take-off. I want to thank in particular the Premier of New South Wales for the decision they've taken, working together with the federal government to bring us to this very important day.

But I've got to tell you. The ground staff, the ground crew that is really getting Australia to take off today is the Australian people, who have gone out there and kept their part of the deal and have been getting vaccinated. Australia is en route to be one of the most vaccinated countries in the world and here in New South Wales, as well as in the ACT and Victoria charging in behind as well. We are seeing those vaccination rates continue to rise. The national plan was all about opening up Australia safely so we can remain safely open. And that's what we're seeing here today. And that means planes get back in the sky. It means people go and get their hair cut again, as I'm sure they're doing in large numbers today, down in Melbourne and across Victoria. It means that families are coming together again. It means kids are going back to school. It means the reunification of our country, which I know we have all been so keen to see. And that begins with this and that begins with the decisions that have been taken here by the New South Wales Government, which I have no doubt will be quickly followed by those in other states, as we're already seeing in Victoria today. The Premier of Victoria today will be making some further announcements and I'm looking forward to that. I know the Premier of Tasmania will be making further announcements today and I'm looking forward to those. I won't pre-empt those other than to say that the national plan is working. Australia is coming together. And we realise the great efforts of the Australian people in rolling up their sleeves, so we can move forward together and re-engage.

And one of the biggest achievements that will flow from that is people will be back in work, businesses will be open again and here at Qantas, who've done such an extraordinary job as well as Virgin and other airlines in finding their way through what has been an incredibly difficult time. And I want to pay credit to you Alan, and to Richard as chair of the board and the whole team here at Qantas and Jetstar, for the amazing job you've done in keeping your team together. Because one of the things we always knew going through this pandemic, that this day would come and we had to be ready for this day. And that means our planes had to be ready for take-off. It meant that our industries had to be ready to open again and to move forward again. That's what JobKeeper was about. That's what the Commonwealth Disaster Payment was all about. That's what the business support package, that we did together here with the New South Wales Government, which the Treasurer-then and Premier now, and I together with Treasurer Frydenberg and the former Premier put together to keep Australian businesses and New South Wales businesses ready to go. So we have prepared for this day. Australians have prepared for this day and I'm looking forward to people being able to come back to Australia and leaving Australia as well and enjoying the things they did before.

One last point I'd make before handing over to the Premier is this. We are in the final stages of completing an arrangement with the Singapore government. I was in a position, as you know, some months ago, I met with the Prime Minister of Singapore, Prime Minister Lee in Singapore, to set up a new arrangement which will see our borders open more quickly to Singapore. We anticipate that being able to be achieved within the next week or so as we would open up to more visa class holders coming out of Singapore. We will see that occur, those ports here in Australia will be open the same way as they are here in Sydney, and we would expect to see that align pretty much with the timetable that Qantas has announced today regarding when they'll have flights to Singapore. So that's another further example of how we're taking this agenda forward. How we're taking Australia, we're opening up.

To all those who are down there in Victoria today. Enjoy the day. It's going to be tremendous being reunited again and doing all the things you've been looking forward to doing. You've worked so hard for that, as they have here in New South Wales, in the ACT and together the country will open safely and stay safely open. And the person who has made such a huge contribution to us achieving that and following the national plan, is the Premier of New South Wales, Dom Perrottet.

PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES THE HON. DOMINIC PERROTTET: Thank you, Scott. It's great to be here with the Prime Minister and with Alan Joyce. Today is a very exciting day for our State and I think it's very much a turning point in the pandemic. And this is all about providing hope and instilling confidence right across our State. The changes that we made recently in relation to hotel quarantine, by removing that for fully vaccinated people globally. And [inaudible], with the federal government really shifts the direction for the State going forward. As the Prime Minister said, we want to open up as quickly as possible as safely as possible, and that's exactly what we're doing. To see the excitement of the crew here today, many, many of whom have been out of work for a long time, this goes back to March last year, and whilst it's been very difficult for businesses right across the state. The east, west, north and south, right across New South Wales, particularly aviation, has been hit hard. But today we're on the runway recovery here in New South Wales. To see thousands of jobs now come back, to meet the crew who for the first time will be back to work after taking on different jobs, doing different things. It's been an incredibly difficult time, but I think this announcement today from Alan and Qantas and the team, the Prime Minister speaking about Singapore really shows that there is hope. There is change coming, and it's a turning point in this pandemic.

We've always wanted, here in New South Wales, to strike that balance in terms of making sure people are safe and at the same time opening up safely. As the Prime Minister has said, when we do open up, to continue to remain open in a safe way. That's exactly what we're doing in this State. The recovery plan we announced yesterday, a $3 billion investment to make sure the economy continues to fire out of this pandemic. We don't just want to recover, we want to bounce back stronger here in our State. I am incredibly confident that's what will occur. Confidence here in New South Wales at the moment is sky high, we had some numbers out earlier this week that shows we have the highest business confidence in the history of our state, and that’s because we've got the measures right by releasing restrictions in the way that we have, I think has ensured that businesses, consumer confidence is there. You know, the people of New South Wales have made enormous sacrifices like everyone around the country. But I think today's a real turning point. We want fellow Australians who are returning home to come home as quickly as possible and get as many home for Christmas, what a great thing that would be. And then we’ll move on to tourism, international students - these are very important parts of the New South Wales economy, our largest two service exports that have been substantially [inaudible]. And, importantly, there are tens of thousands of people right across our state who rely on these important industries to provide for their families and put food on the table. So, it’s very pleasing to be here today. It’s an exciting day. It’s great to meet many of the crew and see how excited they are about coming back to work, about the state going forward. And I particularly want to thank Alan for working with the Government, because I think if you look through this period of time, it hasn't just been a partnership between the Commonwealth and State Government - working with industry, particularly the aviation industry, providing financial support to help get them through. As Alan has said, it's been probably, as he said, the darkest day, darkest days for Qantas in their entire history. That’s true for the entire aviation industry. But, today’s an important day as we get back on track on the runway to recovery.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES THE HON. DOMINIC PERROTTET: We’re working very closely with the Victorian Government in relation to that. In fact, I was speaking to Dan Andrews last night. We want to open up as quickly as possible, but the challenge that we have is that we’ve set that 1 November date for travel between city and regional New South Wales, as those vaccination rates increase. But I spoke to the Premier last night. We want to have that border open as quickly as possible, and we’ll have something to say about that shortly.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Yep. Sure. Yeah the Premier and I are absolutely on the same page. We spoke [inaudible]. You’re right, from the 1st of November if you are Australian residents, citizens and their immediate family, and I can confirm that that immediate family will include the parents of Australian residents and citizens. And I know, particularly in our Indian community, that has been a very important issue for them, and I know that will be welcome, and Alan and the team will be flying them here with these wonderful new services going through Darwin. That's great news for the Northern Territory as well.

And, so, the first step is Australians first, bringing Australians home. There are a large number of Australians who's been looking forward to this day, and I'm looking forward to them filling the planes coming back, so they can get home first. Then we will move, having done that safely and watching that closely, this is a, you know, the plan is about opening safely so we can remain safely open. And whether it's here in New South Wales or other states that move and adopt the same policies that the New South Wales Government has, we need to move in a pace the Australian public feel very comfortable with, we need to demonstrate that opening up those borders is being done safely, and they can feel confident, because I want us to open confidently. And I have no doubt that this will, this will be very successful, and that what will happen here in New South Wales and in other states, as we reopen, that will demonstrate to Australians that we can continue to do this. And that means that we'll be able to move then to students and business travellers, we’ll be able to move to skilled, more skilled migrants as well, and we’ll be able to move to international visitors. And I’m confident that because of the way we have prepared for this day, that that is very possible and very achievable before the end of the year to be getting to international visitors. And, of course, that with, that we can bring in the arrangements that I said with Singapore as a first, as a first mover on this, as we already have with New Zealand. Now, that's something I’ve flagged for some time. I’ve always said that Singapore, together with New Zealand, would be the places that we would start. But, I think this will move, once it's proven to be successful, I think quite quickly. I think it will. But I think, at the same time, Australians very much - they’ve worked very hard to get us to this point - and they will want us to proceed in a way that's cautious and careful, but very deliberate and very confident, and that’s what the Premier and I are doing. Dom may have something to add as well.

PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES THE HON. DOMINIC PERROTTET: Well, certainly, we join the Prime Minister here in New South Wales in reiterating those sentiments. We do want to open up as quickly as possible and have as many around the world come and see the best that New South Wales has to offer, particularly though it’s important, as the Prime Minister has said, that we have returning Australians come home first. That’s obviously a clear first priority. And here in New South Wales, where we can help other states in relation to that, we will. And we know that there are many people still stranded overseas, many fellow Australians who want to get home by Christmas, and I think the changes that we have made to our quarantine system here in New South Wales from 1 November facilitates that and will hopefully drive greater action around the country. So, these are very important [inaudible]. But, as the PM has said, this is a very exciting day for our state and for our country, because I think there’s a real step change. I think people now see the light at the end of the tunnel as we move through it. We don't want to go backwards. We want to open up and we want to bring the world back to, back to our great state - and as far as I'm concerned, the best city and the best state in the world - and the faster we can bring back tourism, international students to our state, the better. We want to do that in a safe way. But, the remarks of the Prime Minister in terms of the confidence this will bring I think is incredibly important. Ultimately, this is a confidence gain. Confidence got our state through last year - business confidence, consumer confidence - and confidence is going to get New South Wales through this pandemic and come out stronger the other side.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. Well, I have a message that we need to continue to boost those vaccination rates in Queensland and Western Australia. South Australia will go close, I think, 80 per cent today on their first dose. That's welcome. That shows that those vaccination rates are being pulled through in South Australia. We certainly saw that here and in Victoria that when those first dose rates hit those levels, that you soon saw the second dose rates come along. And, so, that's great news about South Australia. It's great news about Tasmania. Great news about the ACT and Victoria. And, so, you can see the National Plan falling into place, and the key thing to ensure that we open up right across the country is that those vaccination rates hit those scientific targets.

I mean, these are figures, these are targets that have been developed by one of the best scientific agencies in the world when it comes to pandemics - the Doherty Institute out of Melbourne. These 70 and 80 per cent targets have been determined because we know it gives the populations in those states the resilience to deal with the impact of the pandemic, and so we can live with the virus. So, the most important thing, to open up Queensland and Western Australia, is to get those vaccination rates higher, and they are not at those 70 and 80 per cent levels yet, and they must achieve those levels in order for us to move to those next step. That's what the National Plan provides for. In particular in Queensland, and indeed in South Australia as well, and I know there are a lot of people who are trying to get home to their own state, and we've got home quarantine now having begun in Queensland for some cases. I think we need to expand that very, very quickly, so we can get those those 8,000, I understand, Queenslanders home to Queensland. I mean, you've all seen those reunification scenes as people have got back over the border into Victoria. You know, it's a real Love Actually moment, sort of watching that happen. It was tremendous and we're going to see the same here in New South Wales. So, we're looking forward to that. But we've just got to stick to the National Plan. Australians are keeping their side of the deal, so all the governments around Australia, including my own, we've got to keep ours.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: The quarantine facilities that we've committed to as a Commonwealth are about the future, they're about the future, and they're for about quite acute cases, and the unvaccinated population that will be coming to Australia, they will still require the quarantine arrangements, as indeed is still the case here in New South Wales. And one of the days I will never forget during this pandemic was that first weekend when we had flights coming in from Wuhan, and these facilities that we're building - particularly in Melbourne, they'll be the first - will provide an ongoing capacity. This won't be the last pandemic we face. There will be other challenges in the future, and what those facilities are really about is future proofing for threats that may come. Now, I'm sure they'll provide some assistance as we go through the tail of this pandemic, but they will be important facilities for the future.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, I can't quite hear you.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. The question’s, for those who couldn't hear it, was about what's happening in the UK and what that means for Australia. Well, we've been finding our own Australian way through this pandemic. That's why over 30,000 lives have been saved here during this pandemic, as opposed to what we've seen, terribly in other countries, sadly including the United Kingdom. We've had the strongest, if not one of the strongest economic performances of any country in the world going through the pandemic, because we've been going the Australian way. Now, with this Australian way, we have had scientific targets determined as to when we can take the steps to reopen the country - a first cautious step at 70 per cent and then a strong and bold step at 80 per cent, but with still low level controls being in place, even at that point, to ensure that we live with the virus safely. So, that's the approach we're taking. That is very different to the approach we saw in the United Kingdom. I was there when they were going through their process of freedom day. They opened up fully, fully when there were tens of thousands of cases a day and 67 per cent double vaccination rates. Now, that's not what we've done. We have taken a very different approach, because my objective with the National Plan, supported strongly by the premiers and chief ministers, is to open safely so we can remain safely open. That is the goal and that is what the plan delivers and that's what I would expect to occur.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm confident in the work that is being done and the strength of the vaccines and the take up of the vaccines here in Australia, which is going to go beyond 80 per cent. I mean, Australia is going to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, in the world. And, importantly, that vaccination rate has been strongest for those of the elderly population. I mean, our vaccination rates of the elderly population are extraordinary and they are those most at risk of the pandemic. And even with our Indigenous population, where there have been many challenges, when I was in the United States and speaking to the Vice President, she spoke to me about their success with the Native American population in the United States. Our vaccination rates for Indigenous population are the same as for the Native American population in the United States. There are challenges in vaccinating Indigenous populations around the world, and our performance is consistent with what we've seen there. And that comes from strong leadership within Indigenous communities and and the many programs that have been done, particularly in partnership with state governments out in the west of New South Wales, and just working together and getting the job done. So, I'm confident that the National Plan, scientifically-based, driven by the best possible medical expertise, backed in by the strong economic policies and support started at Commonwealth level and a, and a state level, means that Australia, the Australian way will continue to show the way when it comes to the management of the pandemic.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: The Cabinet will consider this matter next week, before I head off to Glasgow. And as yet, I expect to see some further information on that today, and we'll work through that and determine what we’ll take forward to Cabinet next week. The decision will be taken by Cabinet and I'll be in a position to announce that later in the week.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not familiar with those reports.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

MR ALAN JOYCE AC, CEO OF QANTAS: No, because one of the things that's clear with the requirements now into New South Wales, that our crew based here won't have the requirements to go into quarantine. That's a big difference in allowing us to roster these flights and asking people to do them. Similarly, if the news out of Victoria today is going to be the same, that's a big benefit for the crews that are based there as well, because at the moment they do have to spend time in quarantine. They’re away from their families for months. As I said, they've been doing it to get vulnerable Aussies home. But what's great about what the Premier announced here, and hopefully we’ll get announcement out of Victoria that will end, and we can roster people without having to go into quarantine at this end. I will, I will say one of the great things the Prime Minister did was putting this program into place to keep people linked with us. So, I'm absolutely convinced that we won't lose pilots, engineers. There may be some cabin crew, when we ask people to come back, admit they may have gone on to other roles, that may be the case, but that, while it's a skilled job, that's one we can train up for fairly rapidly if we need to be. And we're very confident we'll get the vast bulk, the vast majority of our 22,000 people back to work, and that's what that program was designed to do. And I think it’s worked really well.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

MR ALAN JOYCE AC, CEO OF QANTAS: Well, that depends on the Indonesian Government, because at the moment there are quarantine requirements for people to spend up to seven days in their hotel room, which nobody's going to go to Bali to do that. So, the Indonesian Government is looking out for Bali, which is highly vaccinated, of doing something similar to what's happened here in New South Wales. And, if that happens, when you're in the resort you can spend a couple of days there before you get access to the general community. We will do something very fast and very big. And, as I said, Jetstar got its operation into Bali, was the biggest operation of any airline - that's amazing - into Bali. They need Aussies there to rejuvenate their tourism industry, and we were happy to help with that. And we're hoping to get Aussies with the opportunity to get back in before Christmas. But, it will be in the early new year at the latest, I think, and we've got aircraft ready to go. We've got Jetstar pilots and cabin crew ready to operate it, which would be great news for them.

PRIME MINISTER: Just on, just on that Alan, I’ll just add, I'll be seeing President Widodo this, next weekend, after this one, at the G20. This has been a regular matter that's come up in our discussions over the course of the pandemic about when we can have travel to Indonesia going again. And I think that provides another opportunity, I think, to take up the issues. I mean, there's a lot of great discussion that's going backwards and forwards between officials, and all countries, as they're opening up, will be working through this. I mean, one of the, one of the most important things that we have to work through, particularly in November, which I know the Premier is aware of, and that is the international vaccination certificates. I mean, from Australia's point of view they’re rock solid - 320,000 have been downloaded, Alan, so that's 320,000 customers who are getting ready to go and excited about that. But we will go through that process of recognising other vaccination certificates and attestations coming into the country. And, so, over the course of November, with Australians coming home and residents and their immediate families, that will put the system through that important first round to ensure that that is all working as it should, and we can have the confidence about that before you take it to the next level.

But, just in closing, I want to, I want to thank Alan for you hosting the Premier and I today.

MR ALAN JOYCE AC, CEO OF QANTAS: Thank you for being here as well.

PRIME MINISTER: It's it's tremendous to be here with the New South Wales Premier. Dominic, it's great to be here together, seeing this happen together. Can I just indulge a second to say that to Qantas and New South Wales Government, and of course to my own team, as a member representing southern Sydney, where there's a lot of Qantas employees, a lot of airline employees, a lot of people who work here at this airport and other places, I want to thank them for their perseverance - 11,000 people coming back to work. That's what I call a take-off. Thanks very much everyone.