Release type: Transcript


Interview - Today Show with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon at the Queensland-New South Wales Border Checkpoint Coolangatta, Gold Coast QLD


The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

Topics: Queensland-New South Wales Border; Queensland Economy; Queensland Government’s failure to commit to a plan for reopening


Allison Langdon:

Today there has been an easing of the Queensland, New South Wales border zone.

Karl Stefanovic:

It comes just a day after tourism operators in the far north pleaded with the premier to reopen state borders in time for Christmas. Take a look.

Perry Jones:

We’re a family run company we've been here over 30 years, we actually got our 25th year in business this year, should have been our most amazing year. And it's our worst year, so it's very, very hard.

[Wipes tear from eye]

Karl Stefanovic:

Yes, very hard, very emotional for them as well they're poured a lot into this. Queensland MP and Federal Minister for Employment Stuart Robert joins us now from the Gold Coast, Stuart thanks for your time this morning. All northern New South Wales is now back into the border bubble that is some good news I guess.

Minister Robert:

It is, but it's still restricted to emergency personnel or for approved reasons there's still no travel by right, unfortunately, and we still don't have a timeline of when people can do that, we don't have certainty, Karl.

Karl Stefanovic:

Annastacia Palaszczuk in parliament yesterday was grilled on this and she said she's just not going to open the borders and risk people in Queensland getting COVID. So you're battling, something that you can't do anything about right now.

Minister Robert:

We see in New South Wales and Victoria, we see very high vaccine rates because there's a plan, there's certainty that the citizens of those states know exactly what's going to happen when certain rates are reached.

And that's our plea to the Queensland Premier, let us know, let Queenslanders know what happens at 80%.

Let Queenslanders plan for Christmas, because right now we live minute by minute and press conference to press conference.

Allison Langdon:

Stuart, you would have heard there those heartbreaking stories from tourism operators yesterday I know that you recently visited Cairns what were people telling you on the ground there?

Minister Robert:

That it has been the worst year in living memory for them. With international borders closed and interstate borders closed their tourism traffic is down 80 to 90%.

It's costing them more to get their ships out to sea, or to have their venues open than they get from the small number coming through the doors and they can't plan.

That's the biggest heartache, they don't know when this stops.

Karl Stefanovic:

So, given it's not their fault, and why don't you just support them financially?

Minister Robert:

Well we are, we announced another $70 million in recent weeks in emergency grants up to $50,000 for small business operators. And as I said, a week or two ago, I hope that this is the last emergency tourism package that we have to  provide, because that's not what they want.

They don't want a hand out Karl, they want to hand up, they want certainty.

We want our premier to say, once we hit 80% whether in the middle of December or whenever the date is, this is what happens. This is how the borders open. This is how restrictions ease.

That way they can all plan, it's pretty simple Karl it's all Queenslanders want.

Allison Langdon:

So, say Annastacia doesn't open the borders by Christmas and we don't at this point know if she will or won’t. Will you help those businesses in far north Queensland over that period of time so that they are operating next year when they can have visitors?

Minister Robert:

We've done announcement after announcement after announcement of emergency funding for small businesses, of course we want to stop having to do that because we want trade to come back again. That's what we want. We want the border 100 meters behind me to be torn down, because we've reached 80%.

Because those people that live a kilometre back there, they'll be able to go to Canada, but they won't be able to get a Cairns indeed it’s not clear if they’ll even be able to get to a coffee shop here.

Certainty, that's all we want.

Karl Stefanovic:

She doesn't really care what you have to say though.

Minister Robert:

We're here to work with the premier, we're here to offer every technological solution. Here to work with the premier in terms of home quarantine, here to assist her to get the three or four thousand stranded Queenslanders home.

The Commonwealth is here to work with the states and territories, let's get some certainty together.

Allison Langdon:

Well the businesses in Far North Queensland need that, that's for sure. Thank you so much for joining us this morning Minister we always appreciate it.