There’s been plenty of news over the weekend on the state of Australia’s domestic and international borders.
Starting with the most important of the lot, the country’s state and territory leaders at Friday’s National Cabinet meeting were unable to reach a consensus on an Australia-wide agreement on how to manage internal borders.
However, according to ABC News, the group did agree to come up with a national standard of what constitutes a COVID-19 hotspot, with some states agreeing to make variations to their border closures.
The move follows comments from Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce, after revealing a $1.9 billion loss in FY20, on the need for a consistent, science-based approach to state border closures.
“At the moment, there are no rules around how borders are going to close and going to open,” he told reporters.
“Nobody has an issue with the international borders being closed – that’s protected Australia. Nobody’s had an issue with the borders to Victoria being closed.
“But it’s very clear that we don’t have clear guidelines for when the borders will open, when they will close.
“So, we have this situation where there are large numbers of states and territories that have zero cases and they’re not even open to each other.”
It also comes as Flight Centre Travel Group founder and managing director Graham Turner (pictured), via The Australian, today claimed coronavirus lockdowns are doing more harm than good, advocating instead for Australians to learn to “live with the virus”.
“Queensland and Tasmania have economies and workforces heavily reliant on tourism, travel, events and hospitality,” Turner wrote in an editorial piece for the News Corp outlet.
“As we learn to live with COVID-19, these states desperately need borders open. Airports and airlines are in a great position to control people crossing borders through testing, wearing of masks and contact tracing if needed.
“But, we all must know what are acceptable and workable protocols at airports, and what are the goals for state and international borders to open.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) made its case to the Senate Select Committee into COVID-19 on Friday that ongoing tailored support and opening of domestic and international borders was critical for Australia’s travel agents.
Speaking to the committee, AFTA chair Tom Manwarring said: “There is a great deal of frustration in travel agents’ businesses because they are family businesses on the threshold of collapse, and they need borders open so they can generate cash and business.
“Failing that it has to be government support. It’s a $45 billion business currently going in reverse and 3,000 travel agents and 40,000 jobs depend on it.”
AFTA chief executive Darren Rudd said many businesses faced collapse if the industry and government do not work together to save them.
“This is a sector which has spent generations helping Australians get overseas for commerce and culture, family and friends reunions, and now it’s time for our society to help them in return,” he said.
“I hope borders are open as soon as possible – not just domestic, but also New Zealand.”
In Tourism Australia’s latest industry update, managing director Phillipa Harrison said the travel authority remains hopeful state governments will “work as one” to capitalise on opportunities to ease restrictions.
“And if borders can’t open right now, at the very least we would like to see states agree on a process for how the future might unfold,” she said.
“The tourism sector, and the communities who rely on tourism for their livelihood, are hurting, and its time for all states to ease this pain where they are able to do so.”
Harrison also revealed that the next iteration of the ‘Holiday Here This Year’ campaign is ready to go – when restrictions ease.
However, WA Premier Mark McGowan has warned his state’s border closure could remain until March next year, as reported by ABC News.
McGowan maintained that the closure of the WA border would remain until health advice said otherwise, but said he expected it would be in place for months to come.
“If it goes beyond March, well it’ll go beyond March,” he said.
Elsewhere, Queensland’s Health Minister, Steven Miles, issued a challenge to federal Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, after the latter criticised Queensland’s border stance as a political strategy ahead of the state election.
According to ABC News, Miles said Queenslanders wanted the border to remain closed and told Dutton to focus on his own job, which he was “failing”.
“Peter Dutton and I represent the same parts of the world, and if he wants to I’ll challenge him,” Miles said.
“He and I can go for a walk in shops at Strathpine or Kallangur, the neighbourhoods we represent and see what Queenslanders think.
“I’d just note that he is one of the few people to have actually, personally brought COVID-19 into Queensland.
“He knows personally how terrible this disease is. He should know better than anyone how important it is that we keep the virus out of our state.
“Peter Dutton has one job, and that’s keeping our borders safe and he has consistently failed.
“He’s failed on cruise ships, he’s failed on hotel quarantine.”
Featured image: Townsville, Queensland (source: iStock/budgetstockphoto)