Topics: Australian Government’s Support Package for Australian Zoo’s, Aquariums and Wildlife Sanctuaries on the Gold Coast; Australian Government’s coronavirus contact tracing app
Angie Bell: It’s great to be here today in our city’s beating heart at Sea World to talk about the money that the Federal Government’s putting forward to support our animals, and this is a coup for the Gold Coast. With this money our theme parks will be able to support and feed their animals which is fantastic news for animal lovers, like me, and all of those across the Coast who enjoy our theme parks. And indeed interstate tourists that will come again to our great city and enjoy our theme parks. So wonderful, wonderful news.
Three months ago, I held a roundtable with the Minister for Trade and Tourism Simon Birmingham, and we discussed how we could best help the Gold Coast pillars that are the theme parks, to come back and get through this challenging time.
So I’m really proud and pleased today to be here to announce this $95 million across the country to help theme parks and zoos. It is a great day for the Gold Coast, and a great day for Sea World.
Karen Andrews: Thank you very much, and it is an absolute pleasure to be here today to announce that we have $94.6 million that will go towards funding, right across Australia, our institutions that care for our animals.
So we here at Sea World today they do a fantastic job. Right behind us we have the dolphins, but there are many animals here. So this money can go towards making sure that the animals are cared for, that they’re fed during this crisis. On the other end of the Gold Coast we have Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary an iconic facility here at Gold Coast, and we know how much the Wildlife hospital does there to support animals. They’ve have recently gone through the impact of bushfire, and now of course visitation has been hit hard at the Sanctuary. So this money will go towards making sure that animals are fed and they are well looked after.
This is terrific news for us here on the Gold Coast. We are a world renowned tourist destination. And we have been hit very hard by the impacts of COVID-19. So this money will be, I guess a kickstart, as we start recovering, as we start to reawaken Australia as we’re coming through this very severe crisis. What’s important to know is that as the restrictions are slowly eased. We still need to be very mindful of things such as social distancing, hand washing, to make sure that we are looking after ourselves, and those people around us.
But as Governments, we want to make sure that Australians are ready to take the next step to reinvigorate their businesses. Very important here on the Gold Coast that we look specifically at tourism. It is a huge economic boon for us here on the Gold Coast, we don’t want to leave a stone unturned and I’m delighted to have been able to work with my colleagues, Angie Bell and Stuart Robert to help deliver this in the Gold Coast.
Stuart Robert: Thanks Karen, great to be here with my cabinet colleague Karen Andrews and Angie Bell. The three Gold Coast MPs have always worked together. And of course, as we’ve been working with Minister Birmingham and looking at how we care for our animals across many zoos and aquariums. The three main ones of course being here at Sea World in Angie’s electorate, Dreamworld to the north and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to the south.
Shortly I will ask Wayne to speak, who’s the Head of Marine Science here at Sea World just to talk about what it means, this six months grant.
But before I do that, it’s important that I make sure that everyone has downloaded COVIDSafe. An application as the Prime Minister tweeted last night that has over two million downloads in the first 24 hours and growing strongly each day. It’s essential that we seek to test, to trace, and then can contain. As the Prime Minister said, the quicker we can get in testing, tracing and containing, the quicker we can get economic activity back. And the quicker that Sea World can be full again of not just my kids and Karen’s kids and Angie’s grandkids. But everyone’s children and families getting back.
So can I encourage all Australians to download the app. I spoke to the Mayor this morning, Tom Tate, the Mayor downloaded it at 11:15pm last night. He did his own due diligence to make sure that indeed his privacy was being maintained and as he said to me this morning, it absolutely is. A whole bunch of very, very smart technologists across Australia have been ripping the app apart and putting on social media, their views of the technology, of the transparency and to date, all of the individual critiques I’ve read have quite clearly shown about the Government’s COVIDSafe, the application is doing exactly what government has said it will do. No more, no less. Let me invite Wayne from Sea World just to talk a bit about what the announcement from government means to him, as well as the animals he cares for.
Journalist: Stuart, just one moment, what is your message to people still hesitant about downloading the app?
Stuart Robert: My message to all Australians is, this is a big Team Australia moment. If you were close to someone who had contracted the virus, you’d want state health officials to call you. I’d say to all Australians if your elderly parents are struggling downloading the app it’s, senior/parent download day. Let’s get on the phone to mums and dads and grandparents and get it downloaded.
The last thing I would want is having a 90 year old lady behind me in a queue at Woolworths or Coles, and if I was to contract the virus I wouldn’t know her name. Manual tracing wouldn’t work. I couldn’t tell state health officials who the dear lady was behind. But if she and I are both running the COVIDSafe application, state health would call her. And that’s important. All the individual tech-heads out there, have been pulling this apart, and over the last 24 hours, all I’ve read is them saying the app does what it says it does, it protects privacy as government says it protects it. The Privacy Impact Assessment is up for people to read. We can’t be more transparent than that. We’re passing legislation to ensure the app can be used for no other purpose other than tracing and saving lives. And I’d encouraged all Australians, download it, let’s get back to Sea World and Dreamworld and Currumbin Sanctuary, a lot quicker. On that note, Wayne from Sea World.
Wayne Phillips: Thank you. On behalf of all the Zoos and Aquariums across the country, we’re very thankful for this financial injection. I’d like to thank all the ministers who’ve spend copious amounts of time getting this passed through. The benefits will reflect everywhere. All the adult facilities across the country will benefit, the animal welfare will benefit. And hopefully all those facilities will be back up and functioning operating very soon.
This package recognises the importance of Zoos and Aquariums across the country, and how they contribute to conservation, education and tourism. And we hope that these stands, that next time we’re here that the stands are full. Thank you.
Journalist: Wayne can we just ask you, you know, how has it been since the shutdown for not just your staff but for the animals how’s it been caring for them?
Wayne Phillips: So animal welfare has always been our highest priority, and we continue that. The financial package will help that. There are a lot of facilities that are struggling, and they’ll be able to care for the animals better. We, we just want to maintain, great animal welfare that our public expects from us. And this package will enable that.
Journalist: How expensive is it for a facility likes Sea World to maintain animal welfare weekly?
Wayne Phillips: It’s extremely expensive, trust me. To feed one the dolphins for about a week will cost over $1,000. I think currently we’re spending more than $2 million a month just to maintain all the (inaudible).
Journalist: Do we know how many businesses on the Gold Coast have applied for JobKeeper or how many people have applied for JobSeeker?
Stuart Robert: We won’t know the JobKeeper numbers till early May, in terms of them rolling through. In terms of JobSeeker numbers, the jobs minister is the one that provides those details in terms of how many people have applied for JobSeeker and what the unemployment figures right across the board. But as the Prime Minister said last week we had processed 550,000 applications for JobSeeker, in the last five weeks when he said that, which was analogous to an entire year’s work. Another week has gone by, and we’re processing about 35,000, a day, just to give you an idea of the sheer scale and magnitude of what the Government is facing.
Journalist: You mentioned you had spoken to the Mayor, yesterday he called for the Federal Government to start easing restrictions on cafes and restaurants. Did you get a chance to talk with him about that at all?
Stuart Robert: I did not talk to the Mayor about restrictions. National Cabinet has made the direction and the timing very clear on the restrictions and we’re seeing restrictions being eased across the country from yesterday with dentistry, ophthalmology and elective surgery being open and those restrictions will loosen as the weeks go on. The key message, if we want to loosen those restrictions faster. We all need to download COVIDSafe. That is key for us to test, to trace and then contain.
Karen Andrews: Can I just add to that what’s important start to look at what their approach is going to be as they come through the COVID crisis. So this morning, I met with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and we are going to develop a plan that potentially could be rolled out across the hospitality sector. That puts us in the best possible position as restrictions are lifted across Australia. They will be able to restart their businesses, and maximize the opportunities. So I would encourage all businesses including businesses right here on the Gold Coast to look at what their restart plans are so for those who have gone into hibernation. Please start looking at the way you’re going to reopen your businesses that those who have transitioned who have looked at opportunities, whether they be online or through a different source of delivery. I encourage you to look at how you will restart your business once these restrictions are lifted and of course during the process of beginning.
Journalist: The coronavirus is estimated to have cost the Gold Coast tourism sector more than a billion dollars, is the Government looking at any other assistance?
Karen Andrews: The Federal Government has provided unprecedented assistance to all Australians. So to the tune of about 160 billion dollars. So we have done that in the best interests of Australia. As a Gold Coast MP, I understand Gold Coast businesses are hurting. I encourage them to look at the opportunities through JobKeeper, through JobSeeker to look at what other support there is for small businesses, but also to look at your recovery plans, so that we can get the Gold Coast back up and running as soon as we can
Journalist: Industry groups are calling for funding to be ramped up for transport and tourism projects for the Gold Coast, will the Federal Government chip in funding?
Karen Andrews: So, we have done a lot of work with infrastructure projects right across Australia, particularly with projects that are shovel ready. Here on the Gold Coast we’ve made some announcements with the M1 in terms of bringing that work forward. There is also happening with the light rail and bringing that forward. We are keen to work with the tourism operators, as Angie Bell previously said when we held the round table with tourism operators here on the Gold Coast. A few weeks ago now, that input was fed directly through to the funding program which you are seeing announced today. We will continue to work with them but we so encourage them to look at the funding that’s already available.
Journalist: So just one more from the local perspective we’ve seen beaches close but if you go down there on the weekend it looks like Christmas. Do you trust Gold Coasters to be able to maintain social distancing measures whilst at the beach?
Karen Andrews: I have a lot of confidence in Gold Coasters and I have a lot of confidence in those people that will come to visit us here on the Gold Coast. But what I think is important is that people are always reminded and our way off the need to social distance. So yes, by all means, start to resume your life within the restrictions that have been eased now, but be very wary of social distancing, and pushing all of those things to remain in place.
Journalist: Just to get to follow up with Wayne, I’m hoping you can go through the animals you have here
Wayne Phillips: Yeah, well we have our dolphins behind, we have two species of bottle nose dolphin, Tursiops aduncus and Tursiops australis. We have our polar bears. We have a group of Gentoo penguins that live with our king penguins, a large group of 40 little penguins that are native to Australia and of course thousands of fish, and lots of different species in our Shark Bay facility. And three, four species seals and sea lions, that are currently.
Journalist: A lot of mouths to feed do you have any idea how many in the park?
Wayne Phillips: For mammals it’s around 200 mammals and birds, it’s hard to put a number on the fish, just because there’s so many but we think it’s in the thousands
Journalist: So there is obviously a cost like you mentioned before, and to not have the park be opening it must be tough times.
Wayne Phillips: Yeah, it is. Not just, you know, for the, for the staff who are at home and aren’t here working, but for the animals, it’s the same. And our job is to make sure that we, we provide the same care whether we’re open or closed.
And then again, thanks to Village Roadshow who’ve been extremely supportive and we’ve been able to maintain that same high level of animal welfare that the animals and the public are used to.