The Times

Prime Minister's interview with Murray Jones, 4CA

  • Written by Scott Morrison

MURRAY JONES: Prime Minister Scott Morrison joins me this morning. A bit of a, an operator error. Did I, did I hang up on you, Prime Minister?


PRIME MINISTER: That's ok, Murray. I'm glad we've been able to connect up. And, can I say, can I start just by thanking the people of Cairns and North Queensland. Cairns’ first dose vaccination rate is 52.7 and two dose rate is 34.5. Now, that's higher than the Queensland average. So, up there in North Queensland, you guys are showing them what, how it's done down south.


JONES: Well, I guess it's biting, you know. You know, we're so reliant on so much tourism. Thankfully, you know, we're pretty lucky compared to a lot of the country. We're getting a lot of domestic tourism and that’s managing to keep things floating along. Look, can we, can we just, you know, sure, let's, you know, we can talk about the 70 to 80 per cent vaccination rates that we're talking about.




JONES: But, look, let's focus specifically on the international travel. And, yesterday I had a really interesting discussion, actually, with John O'Sullivan, who I'm sure you will remember from Tourism Australia.




JONES: You know, moving forward, bubbles are the way to go. You know, how far away, he's talking about maybe 2021, ah, sorry, the end of 2021, early into 2022. Do you think these bubbles are really going to be the likely thing that are going to start to reopen our economy, particularly to the high yield international tourism?


PRIME MINISTER: Well, yes, is the short answer to that question. And, what that, and once we get to 80 per cent vaccination rates, that is when you're able to have Australians who can leave the country and return, and that is all predicated on the Queensland Government having the home quarantine in place. Otherwise, you're just filling up your hotel quarantine. And, so, right now, South Australia is trialling the home quarantine, which would be able to be used in other states. And, I know other states already interested in taking up some of those trials as well. And, so, when you have that home quarantine, that means, you know, you can have people leave the country and return and so on. And, that's really important for, I know, so many Australians, and it's important for the travel industry as well, because, you know, planes going out means planes coming in. And, that's important in restoring our travel industry and our aviation industry. On top of that, but yes, as you know, with Singapore, I met with the Singaporean Prime Minister a few months ago, and that was exactly what was on our agenda. And, I think that's really important. I think we’ll be looking at the situation where we've got countries with high vaccination rates, like the United Kingdom, across Europe. And, by that time, you know, we'll see similar vaccination rates, I think, in places like Japan, and that will enable that business to start coming back, particularly when we get into next year. And, that's our hope, that's what we're working to. And, that's what the national plan’s about. The national plan is about ensuring that we live with the virus. And, when you're living with the virus, you're enabling people who are vaccinated to come into the country and to resume so many of those businesses that have been absolutely devastated by the international and, significantly, the state border restrictions, that have had that that diabolical effect.


JONES: Let's talk a little bit more about some of the variants. You know, as we well know, Delta has been a real curveball that's been thrown at Australia. With the international travel, which, you know, we dearly want, particularly in this part of the world, there is a risk, though, of further variants. I mean, that's another serious curveball that could be thrown at us and that could, you know, change all our plans moving forward.


PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's been the story of Delta, and that's why we've always been fairly nimble, as best as we can, with our response. But, that's why we've got, you know, 80 million or thereabouts booster doses for next year. They're already lined up beginning next year to ensure that we maintain our protection. Once we get to those high vaccination rates, we've got to maintain them with the booster shots. And, I think next year have, people having gone round the first round of one and two doses, then they book in their booster shots next year and, you know, they'll be available - you know, everything from GPs and pharmacies, in the same way you do your flu vaccinations. And, Trent Twomey, you know, a North Queenslander, who heads up the Pharmacy Guild.


JONES: Sure.


PRIME MINISTER: He’s been doing a great job there. You know, I was just on the phone with Trent last week, and all the pharmacists around the country, they're helping people, you know, roll up their sleeves and get the jabs up there, and that's a really important part of it. So, yeah, look, yes, new variants are always going to be a challenge. But, when I speak to the heads of, you know, Moderna and Pfizer and others, I mean, this is something that they're very focused on in ensuring that their booster doses are being developed with as much of that in mind as they possibly can.


JONES: Sure, yeah.


PRIME MINISTER: And, it's not just Australia who’s dealing with it, of course, I mean, it’s every country in the world that will be dealing with those variants. I mean, we saw those variants first emerging with, in India a while ago, and then we had that very difficult decision that we took to really slow down intake out of India. And, that did prevent that Delta getting in at that time. But, ultimately, Delta finds its, finds its way. And, so, that's why it's important, the national plan, we get on with it, because that's what sees life return as much to normal as it can, living with this virus. That's what returns the jobs. That's what unites the country, getting people back together again, enabling people to go. Jen and I actually had a trip planned to North Queensland. That's had to be put on hold indefinitely. I’m looking forward, but it's all paid for.


JONES: That’s good.


PRIME MINISTER: Like many Australians, we've had to delay our Queensland holiday, but I look forward to at some point, whenever that is, taking that up.


JONES: Now, look, one of the things I did discuss with John O'Sullivan yesterday, having recently been - and you, I'm sure you've been through Alice Springs as well - seeing about 140 international airliners there. And, look, you know, reflecting the comments of Alan Joyce in the last couple of days, you know, obviously a really, really tough time for Qantas - affordability with respect to international travel and, you know, the international airline industry - and I think what's happening there in Alice Springs is a good example of that - going through such a tough, tough time. What about the affordability, though, of international travel moving forward? That's, that's going to be a real issue for, I think, for a lot of potential travellers.


PRIME MINISTER: Well, let me start with where we’re at with our major airlines. I mean, we have invested heavily to keep our airlines operational and viable, and Qantas in particular, and Virgin has come through as well. Many countries around the world saw their national carriers fall over during the pandemic. So many, so many airlines have hit the wall, and both of ours have been able to come through, including Virgin going through administration and coming out, because we've had really good targeted support that has ensured that that sovereign capability in our airline industry can continue. So, we've got viable airlines, both for domestic purposes, with competition, and viable international airlines. And, all the airlines around the world will be keen to see their volumes pick up again, would be my, my, my, my read of the situation, and that I'm sure will lead to a bit of price leading at the lower end, I hope, to coax people back onto planes. Now, that could happen. But, ultimately, those, the airlines will make their choices about that. But, what is, before any of that can happen, we've got to implement the national plan. And, that's why it's so important. And, I know across Queensland, where cases, you know, particularly up north, there've been very few and far between.


JONES: Sure.


PRIME MINISTER: And, I know there will be people who will be concerned. They’ll go, “Well, hang on, we haven't had it up here. So, you know, why do we have to go and open up to other states and other countries and all the rest of it?” Well, if there's any place that understands the importance of being connected to the rest of the world and the rest of the country, it's North Queensland, and it’s in particular Cairns. And, so, for those jobs, for those livelihoods, for the future of North Queensland, the national plan is essential, and it’s safe.


JONES: And, certainly that high yield, that high yield that, you know, we really, and as you know from tourism, you know, sure we've got this domestic market, which has been a lifesaver. There's no doubt about that. That high yield, international. And, look, you know, I reflect your comments about the boosters, certainly that medical technology, hopefully, will keep us in front of the curve. I’ll let you hang up on me now, because I know you've got to go. But, I do apologise for the beginning there. But, I guess it was all, suddenly we had 10 seconds and I obviously pressed the wrong button.


PRIME MINISTER: Not a problem.


JONES: Prime Minister Scott Morrison, great to talk to you this morning. And, and some positive news, I certainly appreciate that. Have a great day.

PRIME MINISTER: You too. Thanks again, North Queensland.



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