Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham appeared to criticise Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s suggestion that her state’s borders may remain closed until September.
“If one or two states were to hold out, then they will be answerable to their tourism industry and will ultimately need to provide additional support to that industry,” said Minister Birmingham.
Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed a three-step plan with states to reopen the country, which would see border restrictions lifted in July. However, Premier Palaszczuk’s surprising remarks on Monday signalled a split between members of the national cabinet.
The Premier said restrictions could end earlier “subject to further planning and review” but that things “would look more positive towards September”.
“Having said that, I do not want to rule anything out – I will give you that advice at the end of May, as quickly as possible,” she said.
Minister Birmingham didn’t name Queensland directly, but his comments indicate he is in favour of opening earlier.
“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. “We need people moving across this country again when it’s safe to do so.”
Meanwhile, various tourism groups have added their views, with the Australian Tourism Industry Council saying Queensland should “align with the spirit” of the national cabinet three-step plan.
Executive director Simon Westaway said, “It serves no purpose for a scattered and long drawn out approach to the removal of state and territory borders.
“If it is good enough to have a beer or a meal in a socially-distant setting across all states and territories, it surely is good enough to have clearly-articulated and declared dates for hard border lifting.”
On 8 May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced national cabinet had agreed a broad three-step plan to reopen the country, with recreational interstate flights returning in July. It also hinted at the introduction of cross-Tasman, Pacific island and international student travel in mid-winter, too.
Currently, a combination of state border closures and day-to-day movement restrictions have ruled out all but essential interstate journeys.
Last week though, New Zealand eased its restrictions to move into “Alert Level 2”, allowing wide-scale flying to restart.