Tourism

PM the latest to pressure states over border closures, as Qld premier fires back at Tourism Minister

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is the latest to heap further pressure on Labor premiers in Queensland and Western Australia to unlock their borders.

During Tuesday’s National Press Club conference, Morrison talked up the potential of Australians travelling across the Tasman Sea as the country emerges from COVID-19 restrictions.

He also seemingly directed further pressure on Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to re-open their state borders.

“It may well be that Sydneysiders can fly to Auckland before they can fly to Perth, or even the Gold Coast for that matter,” Morrison told the National Press Club, according to the Australian Associated Press.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is encouraging interstate visitors to come to her state for a holiday from 1 June, when travel restrictions in the regions are set to be relaxed.

However, apart from Victoria and the ACT, all other states and territories are maintaining a hard-line approach out of fear of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, which has occurred in nations like Singapore and South Korea.

According to the AAP, the federal government has warned it will not allow fortified states to become an obstacle to a travel bubble across the Tasman.

But Morrison’s New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, recently said she expects to see the border dispute resolved before kiwis begin to travel around Australia.

“I imagine they’ll want to see those issues resolved around their domestic border, most likely first. That’s my expectation,” she told 1 News.

A panel of Australia’s top medical experts will reportedly be the final judges on restarting flights to and from New Zealand.

Credit: iStock/shannonstent

Meanwhile, Premier Palaszczuk has fired back at accusations she is “pretending” Australia has not been successful in tackling COVID-19 as justification for maintaining her state’s border closure.

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham on Tuesday suggested the Queensland Premier was “holding out” opening her borders because of a false-reading of the rest of the country.

Palaszczuk hit back at Birmingham’s criticism during a press conference, reiterating her decision was based on medical advice.

“These are really hard decisions, everyone. I have sleepless nights, I understand people are hurting, I understand people have lost their jobs,” she said, according to ABC News.

“I want to get people back into work as quickly as possible.

“But if I don’t do it safely, it could cripple our industry for years to come.”

Minister Birmingham said Queensland’s economy relied heavily on the tourism industry and warned border closures were “crippling” small businesses.

“More small businesses and more jobs in Queensland depend upon tourism than anywhere else in the country,” he said.

“Yet, we’ve got a circumstance where they seem to be holding out the longest, pretending somehow there hasn’t been success suppressing COVID-19 elsewhere in Australia.”

Palaszczuk noted the South Australian senator did not criticise his own state, whose Liberal government had also decided to keep borders closed, along with WA, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

“Simon Birmingham lives in a state that has their borders shut,” she said.

“So, Simon Birmingham, go and talk to your own premier in South Australia and get that sorted first before you start commenting on other jurisdictions.

“It would be negligent for any government leader not to be taking the interests of families first and foremost.”

Gold Coast Mayor “100 per cent” behind Palaszczuk

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said he entirely backs the Queensland Premier’s plan to keep borders closed until September, reportedly despite pleas from local tourism operators, and the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF), to open up.

According to ABC News, Tate hosted a round table meeting with Palaszczuk, Tourism Minister Kate Jones and business leaders at the council’s chambers on Tuesday morning.

“Nobody would think that we would be down to 12 active cases with 10 weeks when the rest of the world has had a second wave,” Tate said, as reported by the national broadcaster.

“In Brazil, they can’t bury people quickly enough.

“It is a huge price to pay to make sure that we get down to a COVID-free state, but we really don’t have a choice, because if you don’t do it right this pandemic can ignite.”

Mayor Tate also urged the federal government to extend the JobKeeper program for six months, a measure called upon by Australia’s tourism industry.

“Is the federal government just going to let it end so more people are unemployed?” he said.

“If we are worried about mental health issues, the first thing I would advocate is the JobKeeper [scheme] be extended to the end of December.”

Last week, the Palaszcuk government announced $50 million in funding under the state’s economic reset would be directed to Queensland’s tourism infrastructure, along with $7 million towards a domestic tourism campaign.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has invested $6 billion in initiatives to manage the health response, support local businesses and families, and protect local jobs.

However, the announcement came amid calls by North Queensland tourism organisations for the establishment of a regional travel bubble between Cairns, Townsville, the Whitsundays, Mackay and outback regions by 12 June, when the state’s stage two COVID-19 restrictions begin.

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