SENATOR THE HON SIMON BIRMINGHAM
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Doorstop in Adelaide
Topics: Holiday Here This Year tourism campaign; Victorian border closures; Australia-China trade relationship; Australia-New Zealand travel bubble;
Simon Birmingham: Thanks very much for coming along today. I’m thrilled to be launching the next stage of Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year campaign today, featuring the great Hamish and Zoe, two wonderful Australians who are out there promoting the wonderful experiences that we have to offer right across Australia. Traditionally, one in 13 Australian jobs are reliant on our tourism industry and they are under pressure right now because of COVID. This campaign is about trying to make sure that we save as many jobs as possible across the Australian tourism industry, by getting Australians moving where they can safely across the country again.
We know that Australians have shown an enormous appetite to get out there and holiday around regional Australia over recent weeks and months. Wherever they can, they’re hopping in their cars and driving a few hours from their cities, and enjoying some of the wonderful experiences in their own states. But we still see people struggling in terms of businesses, airlines and airports most notably, hire car companies, city hotels, tour operators and experience providers; all struggling because of the lack of people undertaking real holidays where they hop on a plane, travel interstate, travelling to stay for a week or two and immerse themselves in the experiences that are on offer. That’s why this year, our Government is part of our economic recovery plan to save Australian jobs. It’s giving record funding to Tourism Australia so that we can encourage Australians when borders are open and it’s safe to do so, to travel across the length and breadth of our magnificent country. We want people to get out there, dive deeper, stay longer, experience items off their bucket list and have the time of their lives, knowing that in doing so, they’ll also be helping to save jobs and businesses of their fellow Australians.
This is all about ensuring that our economy comes back to strength as quickly as possible, jobs in Australia are saved, but also encouraging Australians who are in the fortunate position to take a break to get out there. They may not be able to go overseas over the next little while, but they can certainly go into state and discover what Australia has to offer by holidaying here in Australia this year. There are so many experiences that we hope they will enjoy, and they will become even stronger ambassadors for our tourism industry in the future.
Question: Zoe and Hamish won’t be seeing much of Australia anytime soon. They’re stuck in Richmond in Melbourne, in their five kilometer radius. Victoria’s also not featured in this ad, the rest of Australia is. Is Victoria still a desirable place to visit and are they going to get out of lockdown any time soon?
Simon Birmingham: Victoria will be a wonderful holiday destination when they’re able to reopen safely with the rest of the country. It’s fabulous that we’ve got Hamish and Zoe promoting travel ideal, but also able to connect and understand the difficulties that Melburnians are facing right now. We have been understanding of that in structure in the spend campaign for this element of tourism campaign, that we are targeting it in terms of spending and advertising in states where people can freely come and go, or where we are expecting borders to reopen very, very soon. And, of course, targeting experiences primarily that people can access. This is about getting people moving where they can, recognising that in Victoria, or in WA for very different reasons, people aren’t able to move quite as freely as we’d like.
Question: Should other states be opening their borders up to Victoria?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I think all states need to follow the health advice there. It has been a national approach, the quarantining of Victoria. There will be a time and place rightly to open up, but we ought tread carefully in that regard, knowing that first and foremost, keeping Australia safe, continuing to suppress COVID, has enabled us to open up so much more of our economy, and to save jobs. And it does work very much hand in glove, saving jobs and saving lives go together. And that’s been the Australian success across every other state, aside from Victoria. And we’re pleased to see Victoria tracking back in the right direction.
Question: Are 300 international university students still on track to come to Adelaide, has that trial been approved? And if so, when will they be arriving here at Adelaide Airport?
Simon Birmingham: So, indeed the trial conditions are all approved. The challenge is in finding excess capacity on planes that doesn’t take seats away from Australian seeking to return to Australia. We certainly remain willing to see that trial go ahead. The first priority is seeing returning Australians repatriated, and that’s why we’ve been working so hard with states and territories to increase the number of quarantine rooms available, and to congratulate Steven Marshall and his state government on expanding their capacity to give the best possible prospects of that trial going ahead.
Question: Minister, have you been able to verify reports that Chinese [indistinct] companies have been told to stop importing Australian coal?
Simon Birmingham: So, I’ve seen the reports in relation to how Australian coal exports to China might be being treated. We do know from recent years that there are certain cyclical patterns to the way in which China has managed coal importation, and this may be another case of that. We are consulting with the Australian coal industry. We’re also consulting, of course, through diplomatic channels with China to seek reassurance that these reports are not accurate and that all of the terms of the free trade agreement and world trade obligations between Australia and China are being upheld.
Question: Do you believe this is a part of a broader campaign [indistinct] China?
Simon Birmingham: We have concerns about a number of decisions that have been taken during the course of this year. I’ve spoken about those clearly before, but China remains an important trading relationship, an important regional partner, and the Australian Government continues to believe that our produce across a range of different categories provides for a mutually beneficial trading relationship. It supports Australia’s economy, China’s economy, but also ultimately growth and prosperity across the region, as it has for many years.
Question: Given China’s refusal to speak to Australian ministers, what hope do you have of finding out whether or not these reports are true?
Simon Birmingham: We’re working through normal diplomatic channels in terms of seeking clarification in relation to the allegations that have been made in these reports.
Question: When was the last time you spoke with your Chinese counterpart?
Simon Birmingham: As is well documented, we last spoke last year. The Australian Government remains willing to engage in ministerial dialogue at any time and the door is open from our perspective. We will sit down and maturely deal with the points of difference as well as hoping to pursue points of agreement. It’s up to China as to whether they’re willing reciprocate.
Question: And what risks are the Australian coal industry under if these reports are true?
Simon Birmingham: Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. As I say, we have seen a cyclical pattern to the way in which coal exports to China have ebbed and flowed over the last couple of years. There have been a number of occasions where we’ve seen the rate and volume of those exports slowed for a period of time, but only to pick up again. So, we’ve been monitoring this pattern for a while. We’re obviously investigating to see if there is anything more to do at this stage.
Question: This’ll be quite a blow, though, if it is true. I mean, given the tariffs they’ve placed on beef and barley already this year.
Simon Birmingham: China is a very important market. Some of the decisions that have been taken this year do clearly increase the risk and difficulty for Australian exporters. I’ve publicly acknowledged that before. And what we will continue to do, though, is to help our exporters in terms of expanding access to other markets. Japan is the largest destination for Australia coal, for example. We’ve seen strong growth not only in the Japanese market for other products, in the Korean market, of course in other parts of Asia. We see huge possibilities through our new trading relationships with Vietnam and with Indonesia. We continue to negotiate with the EU, the UK in terms of new trade agreements in those markets as well. And what we will keep doing is trying to open as many opportunities and choices for Australian exporters, for them to pursue as part of their [indistinct].
Question: Would they be able to feel the demand that China has, though?
Simon Birmingham: Look, this is a commercial undertaking for every business as they go out into the export market. As I’ve acknowledge before, businesses have to weigh the risks and some of the unexpected decisions that have come from China this year will have changed the risk profile of some Australian businesses there. But our resources companies are large. They are well resourced and well able to navigate some of the political uncertainties. They have mature relationships with buyers across many different companies. And I’m confident that our resource companies will continue to make a significant contribution to Australia and our economy, but also to providing reliable energy and resources to many partners right around the world.
Question: You’re here talking about domestic travel today, obviously a lot of Australians and looking to go overseas and a lot of international travelers looking to come to Australia, when do you realistically see this happening?
Simon Birmingham: I remain really hopeful that we will see an opening with New Zealand. It is a two-way open travel arrangement between the Kiwis and at least a good number of Australian states before the end of the year. That will be important to our travel industry, to our tourism market, but also for many families who wish to reunite with loved ones over the Christmas period. If we can get that New Zealand bubble up and operational, then it will provide a model that hopefully can be extended to other countries that have similarly suppressed COVID-19 to the same degree of success as Australia and New Zealand. If we can do that, that’ll be a great step forward. But clearly then, in other parts of the world, parts of Europe, parts of the US who are still struggling with spiraling cases of COVID, obviously will be more reliant on a vaccine or other sort of breakthroughs in terms of opening up in the future.