The chief executive of Sydney Airport has appeared to suggest Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is keeping her border shut to NSW purely for “self interest”.
“The behaviour we are seeing at the moment from certain states is inconsistent with what it means to be Australian,” said Geoff Culbert, referring to domestic border closures. “This is the moment we should all band together. We should have each other’s back.”
His intervention comes after Australian Aviation revealed on Friday that Queensland’s decision to reshut its border to NSW caused the airport’s domestic passenger traffic to plunge nearly 70 per cent, from 276,000 in July to just 91,000 in August.
Speaking on the topic of state border closures at the Infrastructure Partnerships Australia virtual summit on Friday, Culbert said, “We need a consistent nationwide set of definitions and metrics that determine a hot spot and what the triggers are for opening and closing borders.
“Importantly, these can’t be too conservative; they need to be realistic and achievable.”
He added that the nation’s current approach is “fragmented and inconsistent”, in a likely swipe at state premiers, including most notably Palaszczuk and WA’s Mark McGowan.
His support for a national consensus echoes those of many in the industry, including the chief executive of Melbourne Airport, Lyell Strambi.
“With reliable data demonstrating that we are now past the peak, we need to look over the horizon to what comes next,” said Strambi. “At present, Australia’s national businesses are working on a state-by-state basis, adapting to the local COVID situation and restrictions.
“It must be a nightmare. We need to be joined up. Our island nation can’t afford to be a collection of states isolated from one another.”
Last week, Queensland announced it would relent and open up to the ACT on 25 September – but would still keep in place restrictions for those travelling through NSW.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet attacked the decision and quipped the northern state was “turning the Newell Highway into the Berlin Corridor”.
“I don’t understand their position,” he said. “This is not State of Origin, what we should be focused on is a national approach.”
The decision to open to the ACT only means Canberra residents will be forced to fly, and not drive, across the border to avoid travelling through a designated ‘hotspot’.
Culbert’s attack comes weeks after Sydney Airport announced it was making 118 roles redundant, or around 20 per cent of its total workforce.
Then, Culbert said in an email to staff, “We’ve fought hard for every job and we hoped we would never be in this position, but the circumstances have overcome us and for that, I’m truly sorry.”
The business this year revealed a half-year loss of $54 million – with passenger numbers down 96.6 per cent in the second half of 2020.