Adelaide Airport’s managing director has called on the federal government to pass laws to stop states from shutting their borders in the event of another pandemic.
Brenton Cox used his keynote speech at the Australian Airports Association Conference to declare Australia was unique in how it “splintered” and criticised the “local politics of fear”.
Cox revealed the airport instigated its pandemic plan in late January 2020, but it never considered that states would shut off from each other.
“The past few years conditioned us to think that closing State borders is normal — it is not normal.
“We all know that aviation was impacted more than most industries globally thanks to border closures and travel restrictions, but most people thought that our Australian aviation experience was shared elsewhere — it was not. We were unique in how we splintered.
“Even New Zealand, with its draconian policies, was significantly better off. New Zealand does not have states. But it also chose, for example, not to cut off the North from the South Island.
“Nearly as many people were flying between countries in Europe as within Australia.
“Aviation was smashed globally but no more so than here. The fact we are now operating at a service quality and capacity level half as well as we are now is some sort of miracle.”
He added that accepting “incoherent, disaggregated decision making in the event of a predictable pandemic is the same as accepting that Australia should be a risker and costlier place to do business”.
Cox pointed out how Australia introduced laws to prevent state closures after the Spanish Flu, but they were effectively replaced with the more modern Biosecurity Act that focused on “impact to plants and animals”.
“Our ask is for the Federal Government to now fix the system like the Federal Government did in 1920 — to close out this sovereign risk.
“This is not just for the benefit of aviation but for anyone impacted by State border inconsistency. Even just in aviation this benefits our customers who will otherwise pay for the costs of that lingering risk.”
Cox’s comments come shortly after another high-profile industry figure, Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner, argued “ineffective lockdowns” were more to blame for Qantas’ troubles than CEO Alan Joyce.
Turner added state premiers and former prime minister Scott Morrison made “rash decisions” based on “little science” that ultimately caused “devastating outcomes”.
Writing in The Australian, Turner said, “History will show or has already shown that shutting borders and dictating widespread lockdowns not only were ineffective in stopping COVID-19’s spread but caused enormous societal and collateral damage.”