Australian TV hosts grill Jacinda Ardern on trans-Tasman bubble; ask for Dave Dobbyn sing-along to promote New Zealand

Australian TV hosts gave Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a light-hearted grilling about what took so long to get the trans-Tasman bubble up and running, and asked for a sing-along to promote New Zealand. 

The interview on Australia's The Today Show came the morning after Ardern announced that the trans-Tasman bubble, allowing quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand, will commence on April 19. 

"You finally considered after all these years you just miss us too much - you can't live without us," TV host Allison Langdon said to Ardern in her opening remarks. 

Ardern responded: "I can't believe I'm saying this, but we have absolutely missed you and we want you to come and see us again. Distance makes the heart grow fonder - that's definitely the case for us here, I think."

Co-host Karl Stefanovic got straight to the point, asking: "What took so long?"

"Well, we want to get it right," Ardern said. "If you think about when we first started talking about having a trans-Tasman arrangement, back then we were talking about the test being 28 days free of any case outside of a managed isolation facility, and in the time that we've taken to establish this protocol in this arrangement, we've learnt so much.

"We now know that we can safely manage outbreaks without necessarily having that prolonged, month-long period in the aftermath of a case. So, time has been of benefit to us. I think we now have a regime that will be flexible, but pretty sophisticated, and ultimately it means now we're in a position to welcome you here and to do it safely."

Ardern talked about the importance of the trans-Tasman connection to New Zealand, how Australians make up about 40 percent of tourism and about $2.7 billion worth of spending. But she said the most important outcome of the travel bubble is reuniting families and friends. 

"It sounds like there's a bit of emotion in your voice this morning PM," Stefanovic observed. 

"I am excited," Ardern said. "It's been a long time. I have family and friends in Australia and I've had some who have had some really devastating situations here in New Zealand that they've been apart from."

Ardern talked on Tuesday about the responsibility she felt to sell New Zealand as a tourist destination. The morning round of Australian media provided the opportunity to promote the country to our trans-Tasman neighbours. 

"What I'd say to anyone who perhaps doesn't have that connection, everyone needs a break," Ardern said. "It might just be the need for a change of scene, so come and visit one of our cities and enjoy our food and our drink, our shopping. Or, if you just need a bit of R&R, come and visit a wide open space - our nature, our ski fields, our experiences are incredible."

Ardern said Kiwis have been "relishing" the opportunity to explore their own backyard while the borders have been shut off, but "we'd love to have the Aussies join in on what we've been doing for the last year". 

Flights are already filling up fast from Australia. Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran told The AM Show "several thousand" have booked getaways to Queenstown since the travel bubble was announced. 

But it's flyer beware if you find yourself in bubble trouble. The Government is introducing a traffic light alert system if COVID-19 cases emerge in Australia once the travel bubble is in place. 

Australian TV hosts grill Jacinda Ardern on trans-Tasman bubble; ask for Dave Dobbyn sing-along to promote New Zealand
Photo credit: Supplied

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but think of New Zealand as another state in that way. Just for this particular scenario," Ardern laughed. 

"If there's a hotspot in one of the states of Australia, we may just act in the same way as another state would. But what better place in the world to be stuck, am I right?"

In conclusion, the Aussie TV hosts asked Ardern to sing-along to a Kiwi classic, 'Slice of Heaven' by Dave Dobbyn, to help sell New Zealand as a destination for Aussies to visit. 

"There is absolutely no way I will sing along," Ardern said with a smile, as the co-hosts cracked up. 

"You know what I like about the Prime Minister of New Zealand? She has a clear message, does not take any nonsense," said Langdon. 

Ardern concluded: "Politicians should not dance and they should not sing."

Ardern also earlier caught up with Adelaide's FIVEaa radio station, where she strongly encouraged Australians to visit New Zealand. 

"Expect that you might be somewhat smothered," she said. "Ultimately, the message is welcome. We want you to come and visit us."