Sydney Airport’s chief executive has claimed he wouldn’t have had to make so many roles redundant if state borders remained open.
Geoff Culbert instead argued that NSW’s alternative approach was the right way forward.
“The way that they’ve taken on the challenge – and it is a challenge – of keeping the economy open and not taking a zero-risk approach, really needs to be commended,” Culbert told the AFR. “I think that they’ve basically lapped every other state government in Australia on the way they’ve handled it.”
It later emerged that domestic passenger traffic that month plunged nearly 70 per cent compared to July.
Queensland opened up to NSW on 10 July but closed to Sydney on 1 August and then to all of NSW and the ACT just a week later. As the NSW-Victoria border shut earlier on 6 July, the figures suggest Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s decision was the crucial factor behind the drop.
“If the state borders in Australia had been open, then we would not have had to lay off as many people as we did,” said Culbert. “I’m sure that there are countless businesses around Australia that would tell the same story.”
The comments come after Culbert last month suggested Premier Palaszczuk was 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,” he said, referring to domestic border closures. “This is the moment we should all band together. We should have each other’s back.”
Speaking on the topic of state border closures at the Infrastructure Partnerships Australia virtual summit on Friday, Culbert added, “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.”
On Tuesday, Australian Aviation revealed Queensland’s decision to reshut its border to NSW bizarrely caused Brisbane to surge past Sydney to become the country’s busiest airport by a huge margin.
The knock-on effect of Premier Palaszczuk’s restrictions meant Brisbane clocked up 324,188 total passengers in August versus Sydney’s 129,000.
Significantly, the Queensland capital’s numbers were down only slightly from July (358,537) whereas the NSW capital’s collapsed 60 per cent (from 317,000).
“Brisbane is currently the busiest airport in the nation due to strong intrastate travel and an increase in domestic tourism,” said Australian Airports Association chief executive James Goodwin.