Topic(s):  National Plan; Vaccination rates


Jim Wilson: Minister, welcome back to drive.


Simon Birmingham: Hello, Jim. Great to be with you again.


Jim Wilson: Thank you for your time. Another Christmas locked inside their state for West Australians, that’s a lot of money that won’t be moving around our country. You must be terribly disappointed.


Simon Birmingham: Look, it would be a tough announcement for many West Australians who find themselves separated from loved ones for a longer period of time. It’ll be tough for parts of the West Australian tourism industry, knowing that people across Australia will be making bookings to be able to head into other states to head overseas. In fact, we’ve got Qantas, I think have sold 500,000 tickets in the last two weeks, compared to just 20,000 back during the lockdowns of August. So this just shows how quickly the market is coming back. And for states like mine that aren’t currently open. But Steven Marshall in South Australia has set November 23rd as the date when SA will start to relax its borders and make this progress. You know, that’s something that provides much hope as the tourism industry to separate with loved ones and having to wait for far, far longer down the track will be a big stress for people.


Jim Wilson: Well, you and the federal government must be terribly frustrated and feel let down. He committed to this at national cabinet. At least Steven Marshall has given a date in South Australia. You’ve got Annastacia Palaszczuk, who’s given a date in Queensland. There’s no date for WA. I’m getting so many heartbreaking stories from our listeners this afternoon, both in the west and also here in Sydney and around our state. You must be just bashing your head against a wall.


Simon Birmingham: Look, it really is a matter for four West Australians in terms of taking the case up with their state government to the national plan has worked wonders in terms of what it’s achieved for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tassie Act. You know, all have basically embraced it. There have been variations, but they’re not wild variations. They’re sticking to 80 per cent double Vax, achieve that target broadly reopen and get things going again. And so that is something that is really encouraging for the rest of the country. And I think the example of that will perhaps be far more powerful in terms of what it says to West Australians than any type of political argy bargy or commentary that any of us can throw around. It is the case that West Australians are going to see the rest of the country moving more freely, getting back to normal, heading overseas, booking trips up in Queensland, down in Tassie, here in SA between New South Wales, Victoria. It’s going to be really encouraging to see all of that sort of activity get back to a degree of normality. And I think in New South Wales, leading the way that has really demonstrated that these things can be managed safely with some of the best vaccination rates in the world. And that’s the thing to really appreciate about Australia. We are now one of the most heavily vaccinated countries in the world and still growing. We’re one of the most recently vaccinated countries in the world, and when one of the first in the world to begin a comprehensive nationwide booster programme, all of which is essentially making us one of the most protected countries in the world. And we’re doing that from a base of quite low COVID compared too much of the rest of the world.


Jim Wilson: Thankfully, we’ve now got unfettered travel between New South Wales and Victoria after this agreement was signed off last night between the two premiers. Dominic Perrottet and Daniel Andrews. This should provide a welcome boost to the national economy minister.


Simon Birmingham: It really should, and it is a day of great relief for so many people able to reconnect and move more freely across that border between New South Wales and Victoria. But economically, it means so much to the Sydney Melbourne air route is one of the busiest in the world. The, of course, need for commerce and trade and activity between our two biggest cities and our two biggest states is enormous. The cross-border communities have been doing it so tough, so there are lots of reasons to be grateful for it. And again, it’s a testament to the fact that after some really tough months for people in New South Wales and a really tough couple of years for people in Victoria, they’ve heeded the call. They’ve led the country in getting vaccinated and this is the dividend for doing so, being able to reopen in a safe and thoughtful manner.


Jim Wilson: Mm-hmm. Minister, as always, thank you for your time and have a good weekend.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Jim, you too and to all your listeners.