Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed he will likely not allow Queensland to receive flights from New Zealand because of the state’s insistence on hotel quarantine for domestic travel.
The PM argued he couldn’t justify allowing trans-Tasman flights into Brisbane if it would mean precious hotel quarantine rooms were taken up by Kiwi arrivals.
The intervention came on the day Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles confirmed he wouldn’t open his domestic borders to NSW until after the state’s election on 31 October.
Speaking on Adelaide’s FiveAA radio on Thursday morning, PM Morrison said, “I would see South Australia as well as NSW in the front end of that arrangement because they’ve both taken their borders down.
“For states who still have borders up and are insisting on quarantine for people, say, in Sydney to go to Brisbane, we can’t have people from New Zealand coming in and taking up those [hotel quarantine] places for Australians coming home [from overseas].”
PM Morrison’s words come alongside new comments by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hinting travel between the two countries could be close, and begin with one-way flights from New Zealand to Australia.
“There is a chance that we could have Australia simply open to New Zealand because of our status and where we are right now, which is pretty good,” she told the Australian Associated Press on Wednesday.
“They could just say, ‘Well, look one way [travel from New Zealand to Australia] is fine by us’ until we work through some of the detail, and it’s a possibility.”
However, she hinted travel the other way was still slightly further away, and would involve Australia having to meet a set of criteria she is setting. When it begins, it will likely involve being able to rapidly stop travel to so-called hotspot areas that see COVID-19 flare-ups.
“Essentially what a hotspot system would do, it would shut down those areas where there were heightened cases, while allowing the rest to be open. And so absolutely, we can also make that work,” added PM Ardern.
“What we just need to hear a bit more from Australia on is what the definition of a hotspot will be, how they’ll manage the state borders in those situations, but we’re working that through.”
The recent developments mark a significant U-turn after PM Arden earlier said plans had been placed on the backburner and Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said he didn’t believe the routes would start until 2021.