Tuesday, 23 November 2021
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: National Plan
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, Senator Cash. Can the minister update the Senate on how the Liberal-National government's national plan to safely reopen Australia is reuniting families and securing our economic recovery?
I thank Senator Hughes for the question. On both the health and economic fronts, Australia has fared far better than most countries when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. What we are now seeing is that it is very pleasing that Australia is again reopening to the world. The incredibly high vaccination rate that we have in Australia has now meant that we can take further steps as a country to safely reopen.
We see, today, South Australia is safely reopening, and certainly the comments that I have had are that it is fantastic to see more and more of the internal borders coming down as states and territories continue to have increased vaccination rates. To all Australians out there who have gone and got themselves vaccinated: we certainly thank you. What we see with the borders coming down and Australia reopening is it's allowing families to reunite. It also has an important economic benefit for businesses, in terms of finding staff and making it easier to do business, as we know, between the states and territories.
The continued safe reopening is important for Australia to continue securing our economic future. Australia's economic recovery, as we know, is gaining pace, with the RBA upgrading its growth forecast for 2022 from 4.25 per cent to 5.50 per cent, and unemployment is set to continually fall to be sustainably with a '4' in front of it. That's why—you've seen the announcement—from 1 December this year we are now welcoming back fully vaccinated eligible visa holders to Australia without them needing to apply for a travel exemption. This means eligible visa holders, including skilled workers, students and humanitarian, temporary, working holiday-makers and provisional family visa holders, will all be able to come to Australia, and that's a good thing. (Time expired)
In terms of tourism, in the financial year 2018-19 Australia actually generated $60.8 billion in direct tourism gross domestic product, and the industry itself directly employed over 670,000 Australians. Forty-four cents of every tourism dollar is spent in regional Australia, and that is obviously a very, very good thing for our regional friends. That is why safely reopening Australia is just so important not just for our major capital cities but also holiday destinations like Coffs Harbour and Port Douglas.
The Singapore safe travel zone actually commenced its opening on 21 November. We are now welcoming eligible travellers into Australia from Singapore. As we know, with the announcement by the Prime Minister, on 1 December we will welcome citizens from Japan and Korea. Again, we are safely reopening, and in doing so we are welcoming people back to Australia. (Time expired)
I think as we all know, international education is Australia's fourth-biggest export. It contributes around $40 billion to the Australian economy. Normally, there are around 680,000 international students in Australia and, without a doubt, they certainly contribute to our cities' livelihoods. This is a cohort who, on top of the fees they pay, spend considerable money on accommodation and leisure, and, as we know, they support many of our small and family businesses. That's not just in our cities; they also travel into rural and regional Australia.
What we are seeing with the safe reopening of Australia really demonstrates the success of our national plan as the government continues to work with Australians to get Australia back to normal and to reopen Australia to the world. As the Prime Minister himself said yesterday, it's another win for Australians who want to see Australia return to some form of the normality we knew before COVID-19. (Time expired)