Canberra Airport CEO Stephen Byron has called for the cancellation of flights between the nation’s capital and both Adelaide and Perth, in light of their “unlawful” border closures with the ACT.
Last week, South Australia announced it had shut its border to all of mainland Australia, while similarly, Western Australia increased its risk status for all states bar South Australia and Tasmania.
As such, according to a report by The Australian, Byron is now pushing for new rules to be introduced that prohibit states from closing their border to areas that have reported no community transmission cases of COVID-19 – namely the ACT.
According to the airport’s chief executive, despite not reporting a locally transmitted case of COVID-19 in the ACT since July 2020, both South Australia and Western Australia have remained closed to the ACT since last month, in light of Sydney’s recent outbreak.
“Our proposal is that flights between Perth and Canberra and Adelaide and Canberra be suspended until we the airport and the airlines get a guarantee that borders will not be closed while there are zero cases,” he said.
“These governments are shutting down our business and putting people out of work, and there is no lawful reason why.”
Byron argued that Western Australia and South Australia’s policies on their borders with the ACT make little sense, meanwhile ACT residents can continue to freely travel to Queensland and New Zealand, due to their zero community transmission status.
“Queensland and New Zealand have been two of the most conservative governments in managing the COVID crisis and they’re smart enough to realise the ACT is safe,” he said.
The airport CEO said there is “no health reason” for borders to the ACT to be closed at present, as Greater Sydney remains in lockdown, and the nation’s capital city has banned Sydney residents from entering.
“It’s as if Premier Mark McGowan and Premier Steve Marshall think Canberra is an outer suburb of Sydney, and that’s just embarrassing,” he added.
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Byron noted that extended border closures with the ACT are impacting the airport’s traffic.
He said that prior to Sydney’s Bondi cluster outbreak, the airport was operating at around 50 per cent of its pre-COVID capacity, a figure which slumped to 30 per cent last week, and again down to 20 per cent this week, due to border restrictions.
“We accept unwillingly shutdowns when there are [local] cases but in this instance there isn’t,” Byron said.
As such, Byron is pushing for lawmakers to introduce a national consensus on the implementation of border closures, that would restrict states from closing border to parts of the country with no community transmission.
“It’s time for a national position on what is the health advice for border closures,” he said.
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