NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said state border closures were an “embarrassment” and should end when high-risk groups have been vaccinated.
Speaking at the Australian Financial Review Business Summit on Tuesday, she branded snap restriction of movement into states a “complete overaction” when based on “a case here and there”.
Her comments follow Treasurer Josh Frydenberg arguing on Monday that borders need to remain open to give Australians confidence to book holidays and help the tourism industry when JobKeeper ends.
“There was and is absolutely no reason for closing internal borders within Australia,” said Premier Berejiklian. “The only time New South Wales did that was when Victoria had in excess of 180 cases per day, and because we have 55 checkpoints between our two borders.
“On the notion there might be a case here and there, it is a complete overreaction. So I think we just need to accept now that at the end of three weeks of the vaccination, all the high-risk people have been vaccinated; it’s reduced our risk.
“It doesn’t mean people won’t get the virus or pass it on but the risk is massively diminished. There is no reason why internal borders should even be an issue. I think it’s an embarrassment … I find it embarrassing within Australia.”
On Wednesday, WA Premier Mark McGowan said her views were “silly” and took a swipe at the UK for not closing its borders.
“Britain could have closed borders,” he said. “They’re an island and they’ve used that to their advantage historically to protect themselves. They should have done that again.”
Frydenberg argued earlier this week that “the best thing we can always do is keep those domestic borders open”.
“It is a message I heard in Cairns yesterday from many in the tourism sector,” he said. “While they are relying on international tourism, they also benefit from domestic tourism and with the roll-out of the vaccine if we stop those short border lockdowns, that will give a lot more Australians the certainty to pack their bags, hop on the plane, take a holiday and then, of course, spend their hard-earned money.”
In February, Australian Aviation reported comments from Melbourne Airport’s chief executive arguing that snap lockdowns and border closures were wreaking havoc on passenger confidence.
In a significant intervention, Lyell Strambi said, “State governments have built robust tracking and tracing capacity, and we need to have the confidence that outbreaks can be managed quickly and effectively.”