• Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Royal couple Will and Kate possibly visiting bushfire-affected areas.
12 February 2020

Tom Rehn: And there’s a big story that’s in the paper today as well.

Will Goodings: That’s right. It was reported overnight that Wills and Kate, the royal couple, may well be coming to Australia to visit our fire-ravaged community- our communities. Senator Simon Birmingham is the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and he’s on the line now.

Birmo, good morning. Thanks for joining us. This sounds like very good news. Is it a done deal though?

Simon Birmingham: Hey, Penbo, great to be with you. Look, it- you know, I can’t say that but- because there’s also the protocols where I can’t say most of the things but I can say that discussions have been ongoing for a while with Kensington Palace and the Prime Minister will write shortly in the next couple of days, you know, with proposals of locations and dates. So look …

Will Goodings: So it sounds like they’ve sort of been sounding us out about a possible itinerary then?

Simon Birmingham: Look, they have been very genuine in expressing their support for the fire-affected regions and wanting to know what they can do to help and if they visit, this is something that will clearly be of big help because, you know, the images that get projected right around the world when they travel are immense and they have huge cut-through. And, you know, when Harry and Meghan came to Australia, we saw a 120 per cent lift in visits to the Tourism Australia website and a 30 per cent surge in bookings of accommodation. So, you know, this is the type of impact we can get if they come. Of course, they’ll spend time with the fire-affected communities and people but also hopefully we can get some cracking images of them on pristine beaches, on Kangaroo Island or elsewhere around Australia, engaging with wildlife and sending that real message back to the world that Australia’s still a pretty bloody fantastic place to visit.

Will Goodings: It’s a great point, Senator and I think it’s money can’t buy exposure and it would do a lot for those affected regions. There will be some naysayers, however. A project like this, how much is it or would it be likely to cost?

Simon Birmingham: Well, you can’t put a figure on that but yes, the host government usually has to pick up some costs. However, on the whole, given you know what I just said about the bookings, the interest in travel to Australia that these sorts of visits can drive, you’ve got to say that the economic dividend clearly pays for itself. There’s an economist from the University of New South Wales who is quoted in the newspapers today suggesting a benefit of up to a billion dollars. Now, I don’t know whether that’s accurate or not but certainly the benefits would clearly flow into the millions of dollars- many, many millions of dollars because we do know that they will give us free coverage not just in the UK but across the US, Canada, into Europe and that over the New Year’s period Australia had some of the world’s worst PR and publicity.

Will Goodings: Yeah.

Simon Birmingham: This is a chance to reverse that.

Will Goodings: Well I think, you know, if the benefits of such a visit are hard to quantify, the impact of negative publicity is already being felt with the figures- the huge collapse in tourism and so much of that can be attributed to, you know, several million people re-sharing poorly designed New York Times graphic showing that the entire country including the Barrier Reef was on fire.

Simon Birmingham: Yeah look, the misleading information really hurt our tourism industry right across the country even before coronavirus hit, which of course has compounded the harm. I was having reports of booking cancellations in the Gold Coast, in the Great Barrier Reef, in central Australia at Uluru and over in WA and you can’t get much further away from the fire-affected communities than those places. So misinformation is …

Will Goodings: Uluru.

Simon Birmingham: Exactly. Coronavirus has compounded that that harm in many ways. So, hopefully we might be through the worst of the coronavirus situation by the time any such visit occurs and that will really give us the chance to be getting the right messages into the right target markets, the people who will be listening and willing to make bookings pretty quickly from there.

Will Goodings: And just finally, Minister, obviously there’s several parts of our great country that were affected by the fires over summer, be it Gippsland, south coast New South Wales, the Southern Highlands. Wearing your South Australian hat now, are we going to make sure that we that we try to include KI and or the Adelaide Hills on their itinerary?

Simon Birmingham: Well I know that that Steven Marshall has been badgering everybody he possibly can, me, the Prime Minister, our High Commissioner in London and probably if he’s found a mobile number for William or Kate, he’s probably been messaging them directly too.

So I have no doubt that SA’s interests are being well advocated for by Steven and of course I’ll be looking out for them too.

Will Goodings: Senator Simon Birmingham and the Minister for Trade and Tourism, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

Simon Birmingham: Pleasure, cheers guys.