Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has urged state and territory governments to open borders to domestic holiday-makers during the lucrative winter holiday period, or risk losing tens of billions in tourism dollars.
Queensland has flagged border closures with southern states until at least September, prompting despair from tourism groups.
WA and SA are also signalling borders will remain shut in coming months with tourists unlikely to be allowed in until the end of winter.
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Appearing on The Project, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said while she understands the interest in domestic travel to the sunshine state, the border’s reopening won’t be likely until the later half of the year.
“We want to see travel commence as soon as possible but it just depends on the rate of community transmission and when it’s safe to do so,” she said.
“When my chief health office says people can come, people will come. But I am not the only state that has the borders closed … Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania all have their borders closed as well so I’m not alone.”
Ms Palaszczuk said she and her health advisory assess border closures at the end of each month, which determines what elements of restrictions can be lifted.
“Hopefully as we get to the latter half of the year we will allow people to come here,” she said.
“We know how important the tourism industry is. In Queensland, it’s one in 10 jobs.” According to The Australian, keeping the borders closed throughout the winter months could see our $80bn domestic tourism industry face collapse as tourism operators fear restrictions will cripple the market for years to come.
Senator Birmingham said states and territories should continue on the road map to reopening, especially as the states whose borders remain closed tend to draw significant tourist numbers from May to September.
“Those states who’ve got border controls in place, assuming we’ve continued to see very low rates of transmission of COVID-19, ought to be looking at opening up their borders,” he told Nine’s Today program on Tuesday.
Tourism has been one of the hardest-hit sectors as governments acted to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The industry employs one in 13 Australians, with most forced on to wage subsidies or the temporarily boosted dole.
Senator Birmingham said while health was the priority, it was important to get the economy moving again.
“We need people moving across this country again when it’s safe to do so,” he said.
Last month, the government said the “road map” to a restart in domestic travel would be around July 10.
Most state ministers, including WA’s Mark McGowan and SA’s Steven Marshall, have said that the reopening of borders will be one of the last restrictions lifted.
When questioned about the prospect of residents from NSW or Victoria visiting places like Perth or the Margaret River anytime soon, Mr McGowan bluntly said “no, the answer is no”.
Mr Marshall’s stance was the same as his neighbouring state.
“The issue with regards to the borders is really looking at the number of new cases that occur in those other jurisdictions,” Premier Steven Marshall said.
“In recent weeks we’ve seen that reproduction rate actually increase in some states, rather than go backwards.
“We don’t want to give up on all the hard-earned gains we have made. We don’t have any intention of opening up our borders at the moment. That may change later in the year.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who has kept the NSW borders open, said the move made by the Queensland state government “doesn’t help” anyone.
“It doesn’t help Australia, it doesn’t help any of the states, and it doesn’t help our population, It doesn’t help economic activity,” she said.
– With AAP