The row between state premiers over when borders should open took a new twist on Friday when Canberra Airport’s chief executive proposed a travel bubble between ACT, Queensland and South Australia.
Chief executive Stephen Byron said, “Canberra has not had any COVID for 17 days. And Queensland and South Australian premiers don’t want to open up to places where there is COVID. We are saying that we are free of it right now.”
The surprising intervention comes after NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and her Queensland counterpart Annastacia Palaszczuk have been arguing over when internal borders should open – a decision crucial to restarting interstate flights.
NSW, along with Victoria, never closed, however, this week Premier Palaszczuk suggested her state might wait until September to lift restrictions, seemingly at odds with an earlier national cabinet decision.
Byron told ABC News Breakfast on Friday morning, “There are so many jobs at stake. There are jobs at the airport, but right through the industry, tourism industry, the accommodation industry and everything. We are a COVID-free place.
“It is a good first incremental step to start flights to Canberra now between Adelaide and also Brisbane to Canberra.
“The thing with aviation is a date needs to be set for two weeks’ time or so that people can make bookings on flights and the airlines can schedule flights.
“It’s not like just ramping up a cafe and turning up and changing from takeaway to dine-in again within 24 hours. The aviation industry needs a very clear timetable with firm dates.
“We need to know that we can restart these flights in a matter of weeks. Ideally by 8 June. And certainly, be well and truly up and running for the school holidays on 1 July.”
Byron suggested that if something wasn’t done, there was a risk Australians would instead choose to holiday in New Zealand.
He received backing from SA Premier Steven Marshall, who said his government was “absolutely” considering backing the plan.
The news comes after the latest blows were traded between premiers Berejiklian and Palaszczuk, with the former calling border closures “ridiculous”.
“I’m just saying to my colleagues in other states, please consider this, because it’ll be good for Australia, not just for NSW,” she said.
Premier Palaszczuk had earlier told Premier Berejiklian she would not be “lectured to” on the issue.