A plan to open all borders in Australia by Christmas has been agreed by all states and territories – except Western Australia.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that all states had agreed to a definition of what constitutes of a COVID-19 “hotspot”, which would be used to guide future closures.
Speaking after a meeting of the country’s national cabinet, Prime Minister Morrison pointedly refused to criticise the decision of WA Premier Mark McGowan.
“Western Australia has a very different border and a very different economy than most of the other states and territories where these decisions have been made,” he said.
“Not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station. But it is important the bus leaves the station.”
The proposed definition of a hotspot for metropolitan areas would be a rolling three-day average of 10 locally acquired cases per day, compared with just three cases in rural areas.
There is currently no definition of how big a “metropolitan area” would be or exactly what that would constitute.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian argued her state would therefore have no areas deemed a hotspot if the rules were enforced today.
“If you look at the specific definition which national cabinet is considering, at this point in time, there wouldn’t be anywhere in NSW as of today that would be defined as a formal hotspot,” Premier Berejiklian said.
“There shouldn’t be an excuse for any state to have a border that isn’t open with NSW.
“If the trends continue the way they are, I don’t think any state border should exist by Christmas – unless Victoria flares up again, which I hope it won’t.
“Even though some states are not as comfortable as others, I’m hopeful that, by Christmas, Australia will be a different place.”
Her comments are significant given many states have shut off to NSW, including most notably Queensland.
The positive development comes after Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce accused Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of closing her borders purely for political gain.
He said the restrictions, which include shutting off NSW and the ACT, will cause a lot of small companies in Queensland “to go out of business”, adding that states had no excuse not to open up to areas with few coronavirus cases.
“Surely these decisions should be based on the facts and the level of cases that we’re seeing around the various states?” said Joyce.
Later, the head of Qantas’ pilots’ association echoed Joyce’s calls for a national consensus on state border closures.
Mark Sedgwick, the executive director of the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), also told this week’s Australian Aviation podcast he thinks border closures can’t eradicate COVID-19 altogether.