The return of nationwide interstate flights received another major boost on Friday when both SA and Queensland confirmed their borders will open in July.
The news that Queensland has set a 10 July date to open is particularly surprising given Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk earlier hinted her state would remain closed until September, triggering a tit-for-tat spat with NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted WA could be the last to reopen and said that Premier Mark McGowan is still “looking at the issue”.
The announcements came after Australia’s national cabinet met to discuss the latest steps in the three-stage plan to lift all remaining coronavirus restrictions.
On 8 May, all state leaders seemingly agreed to open their borders by the end of July, but this was thrown into doubt by a number of rows and arguments afterwards.
On Friday, Queensland seemingly relented and announced it was targeting a 10 July open date, but that the decision would only be confirmed at the end of the month and subject to “conditions”, thought to include a review of medical advice.
The state also separately announced a new financial package to provide $5 million to 15 Queensland airports to secure new domestic flights.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the money would help support 1,500-1,600 jobs per year over a three-year period, with each flight potentially creating up to 50 jobs.
South Australia similarly announced it would open its borders on 20 July, and would bring forward ‘stage 3’ eased restrictions from 3 July to 29 June.
The change will remove the need for those entering the state to undertake a two-week quarantine.
“This could only be possible because of the massive improvement right across the entire nation,” said Premier Steven Marshall.
Finally, Prime Minister Morrison downplayed WA’s reluctance to name a date so far, saying that he never claimed there would be 100 per cent agreement across the nation on the topic.
“The Premier in Western Australia will make the arguments that containing the borders of Western Australia has enabled them to move – they are effectively in step three now with the exception of that one item [borders],” he said.
In more welcome news, Prime Minister Morrison also hinted he could finally allow international students back into the country, but that only states with open borders would be able to participate in the pilot scheme.
Currently, only Australian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter the country, leaving many temporary visa holders unable to return.
Today’s statements appear to draw a line under a number of rows between states and the federal government over the issue.
When the national cabinet agreed on a three-step roadmap for reopening the country in May, interstate travel was tentatively pencilled in for a nationwide return in July.
However, this plan was thrown into doubt by repeated declarations from Premier Palaszczuk that her borders could remain closed until September.
Premier Berejiklian called the move “ridiculous” before Premier Palaszczuk responded that she would not be “lectured to” on the issue.
It culminated in the Prime Minister appearing on a number of breakfast shows last month and repeatedly declaring that border closures were never “the medical advice”, or agreed by the national cabinet.