Topics: Queensland Tourism; Cruise Industry; Taking China to the World Trade Organization.




Karl Stefanovic:           The move sparking a surge of bookings from holiday makers keen to visit the sunshine state. Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham, joins us now from Canberra. Simon, big day, huh?


Simon Birmingham:     Look, it’s a very happy day for so many Queensland tourism businesses who have been doing it so very tough during the course of this year. Queensland is a market where regions like North Queensland and the Gold Coast are very internationally dependent, and it’s a market that also relies very much on the rest of Australia heading there. New South Wales and Victoria are worth $8 billion to Queensland’s tourism industry usually and that’s all been shut off to them. So, there are thousands of small business, tens, hundreds of thousands of jobs potentially all desperately reliant on seeing visitors come back. So, please book, make your plans, get out there and support those fellow Aussies.


Allison Langdon:         How much cash are you expecting this to inject into the economy?


Simon Birmingham:     It will be billions of dollars over a period of time and so, it’s why we urge people to make the bookings; not just to book a flight and to book the accommodation. Think about staying a bit longer, taking the experience in terms of doing a diving experience or taking a surf lesson or even heading out into the outback in Queensland. A range of different things that people can do and to book those experiences and also do it with confidence. Know that the tourism industry, airlines, hotels and others have made sure that their terms and conditions deal with the uncertainty that exists in the market place at present, that there are clear criteria to get your money back if something unfortunate happens and borders were to shut again. To make sure that you can rebook, all of those sorts of safety nets are there in the overwhelming majority of cases.


Allison Langdon:         I’m glad you mentioned that because Karl is getting surf lessons in Queensland, this summer. So, anyone with a camera, just keep your eye on every beach in the sunshine.


Karl Stefanovic:           There’ll be cameras there. You can guarantee that.


Simon Birmingham:     Yeah. I can guarantee there’ll be plenty.


Karl Stefanovic:           Yeah. Last time I was there I got photographed coming out of the surf, looking a lot like James Bond. Hey Simon, in terms of the effect on local tourism; I think the local authorities, Tourism Australia, plus local tourism authorities are doing a wonderful job encouraging people to holiday at home. But, you need the international visitors back, especially in Far North Queensland and places in the Northern Territory. How long realistically are we going to wait for that?


Simon Birmingham:     We’re going to be waiting a while, Karl. You and I have discussed a number of times the fact that we love and would have hoped to have had New Zealanders travelling freely here by now. We’re welcoming them, but they can’t get back home without facing quarantine circumstances and clearly, that means it’s not feasible to come for a short holiday. We hope we can still get that breakthrough soon; we hope we can build on that with other countries. And ultimately, the news around vaccines is encouraging, but it’s going to take a while. We’re not going to see vaccines distributed in a way across the world that gets people back by the first or second quarter of next year. But I am hopeful that we can see some decent movement around international visitation as we move through next year and certainly by the end of it. In the meantime, we need Australians to get out there and holiday like you would have done overseas. You know, we spent $65 billion overseas in 2019 as Australians. Visitors to Australia only spent $45 billion. So, there’s plenty of surplus that we can spend supporting our local tourism industry. We just have to get out there and do it and not just do it as a weekend getaway, go and take a proper break.


Allison Langdon:         Do you think we’ll be cruising before there is a vaccine?


Simon Birmingham:     Look, the cruise industry is a tough one. Everyone gets the reason as to why. And the cruise industry is doing some work that I welcome in terms of trying to prove to health authorities how they can manage the issues on cruise ships. They’ve got a lot of work to do there in terms of convincing health authorities and giving not only them but also the public confidence. We certainly won’t see international cruising for quite some time, but whether some elements of the domestic sector can get back on board, we’ll just have to see how the evidence stacks up.


Karl Stefanovic:           Okay. Simon, you’re taking China to the World Trade Organization. China’s not exactly shaking in their boots though?


Simon Birmingham:     Look, these are processes that we want to go through because as a country we believe in a ruled- based approach to trade. China didn’t just sign up to agreements with Australia; it’s also made commitments to the world as a member of the WTO about how it will conduct itself. And if you believe in having an independent umpire and a rules-based approach, then you ought to call out when you think those rules have been broken and you call in the independent umpire. And that’s what we’re looking at doing, in relation to some of these trade issues with China and that means that the rest of the world then gets to, in a sense, sit in judgement and form an opinion as to whether or not our claims, which we think are pretty meritorious, that China is not acting on evidence and is simply applying these trade measures in a way that breaches the type of rules. The rest of the world can form their own judgement on that and hopefully give some ultimate recourse to these actions.


Allison Langdon:         But all of that is going to take a really long time, if it happens at all. Will you compensate producers because diplomatically you are responsible for what’s happened here?


Simon Birmingham:     Well, a couple of things there. It will take a long time, we acknowledge that, but it is still worth using those international processes to get the outcome. Secondly, look, businesses choose where they trade but what we are committed to do with Australian business is helping them to access other markets. We haven’t just done a trade deal with China in the past seven years; we’ve done trade deals with Japan, Korea, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia and in many of these cases, things like wine tariffs go to zero or have already gone to zero. So, we want to help Australian businesses be able to access all of those other markets while we try to resolve these issues with China. And the actions China has taken are not actions of Australia’s; they are China’s actions, China’s decisions. Only China can ultimately reverse them but we do want to hold them to account for it.


Karl Stefanovic:           Alright, Simon, good to talk to you. Our Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, anything else we going to add to that today?


Simon Birmingham:     Finance, mate.


Karl Stefanovic:           Okay.


Allison Langdon:         It’s available.


Simon Birmingham:     It’s already there. Thank you.


Karl Stefanovic:           Busiest man in the world. Thanks, Simon, good to talk to you.


Simon Birmingham:     Thank you.