Transcript - Interview with Neil Breen – 4BC Breakfast

NEIL BREEN

The Federal Government announced overnight – it’s breaking news this morning – its tourism rescue package. The centrepiece are loans to small and medium enterprises, very low interest loans and the ability to take a loan repayment break for two years. But it’s these half price air fares to 13 hard-hit regional hotspots, they include in Queensland – the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, the Whitsundays and Cairns. This is where half price air fares will be offered to about 800,000 seats on airlines. Joining me is the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack. Good morning, Deputy Prime Minister.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good morning. You’ve summed it all up. You’ve summed it up. There’s going to be half price air tickets for hundreds of thousands of airline tickets, cheap loans for businesses, direct support to keep planes in the air. And, as we know, that means keeping workers in their jobs. And there’s $132 million also for travel agents, because they’ve been hard hit, too. And there’s 40,000 people, 80 per cent of whom are women. So, this is a good package, good news.

NEIL BREEN

So how does it help travel agents? Tell me that.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it’s an extension of what they’ve already been receiving. And there’s been $128 million already put on the table for travel agents. But what unfortunately did happen with the travel agents was that for those refunds that they were trying to get them, they did all the work, and, of course, people then had to cancel their travel arrangements. That impacted those businesses. But with the first tranche of support, they weren’t able – all the travel agents weren’t eligible or entitled to get the money that they some others did, and so we’re rectifying that and we’ve got $132 million package, and that’s going to be good news, because they do such a power of good getting people to their holidays, getting them to their destinations, taking care of all the arrangements. And so, I know they’re going to be very pleased with that.

NEIL BREEN

If I’m in Queensland or Brisbane, I can go to Alice Springs or Uluru, which is great, and Launceston if I want. Why can’t my family and I access a half price plane ticket to fly from Brisbane to Cairns?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, because that’s the way it is. But look, contact your – contact Qantas, contact Virgin. I mean, this is the first rollout of what we’re doing. It’s going to be from April through to July. There are going to be all sorts of packages, all sorts of tickets available. And, as I say, it’s the first. There’s 13 destinations. And mind you, they’re growing right across Australia. So, as I say, this is going to – think is a very good package. It’s been well received by the tourism industry and very well received by the airlines themselves. And they desperately need to get their planes back in the air, because their planes in the air means jobs on the ground.

NEIL BREEN

I understand that. And I think it’s great that the Federal Government’s helping out, but I don’t think Queenslanders who’ve been hammered every day – every single day – by the Federal and State Government to help tourism in our own state and Queensland’s good to go, I don’t think they’ll understand why they can’t get a half price ticket to Cairns when someone from Sydney can.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we’ve done nothing but support Queensland. And we haven’t been the ones who have been closing borders at a moment’s notice. This Tourism Aviation Network Support Program is reducing costs flying to initial regions and they include all sorts of destinations. We’ll revisit it. We’ll look at it, all the way through the program. At the moment it’s, as I say, been well received by the Federation of Travel Agents, it’s been well received by the airlines. I’m sure it’s going to make a difference for those destinations, because every dollar spent on an airline ticket means $10 at the destination.

NEIL BREEN

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, just one more – I know you’re very busy this morning; I thank you for your time – there is a recovery package in there for international aviation, and this is about keeping 8,600 employees at Qantas and places like that. It does say, though, that you could expect international flights to return on October 31. Is that a realistic expectation from the Federal Government?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It’s very hopeful and that’s based on the vaccine being rolled out. That is being rolled out not only here in Australia but also elsewhere. And so, we want to see travel bubbles, you know, with those countries which have got the vaccine. We want to see those sorts of arrangements opened up. I mean, there’s 8,600 international aviation employees in work and ready to be deployed and planes in flight-ready condition. We want to see them getting back in the air. We want to see those workers’ jobs protected. And we’re very, very hopeful. And I know Alan Joyce has said that if not from October then certainly early next year. They really want to be back to some sort of pre-COVID normality. It’s going to take time. Of course, it is. There’s many places in the world which are closed for business and will be for a long time to come. But for those – some of those countries like South Korea or Japan where we can have those travel bubbles arranged, then that’s going to be a good thing.

NEIL BREEN

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, thanks so much for your time on 4BC Breakfast this morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

A pleasure.

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