Opening Australia's domestic borders a "priority": tourism minister

13th Aug, 2020 | Tourism Mail Crew

CANBERRA, Aug 13 :  Australian Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has warned of repercussions for states and territories that keep their borders closed for longer than necessary.

Birmingham warned the state and territory governments on Thursday that their tourism industries will not receive federal assistance if they are affected by unnecessary border closures.

"State border restrictions need to be proportionate to the health risk and shouldn't remain in place for one more day than they need to," he told Nine Entertainment newspapers.

"If a state or territory border were to remain closed to a jurisdiction that had successfully suppressed the spread of COVID-19, then that state or territory government will need to be accountable to their tourism industry and will ultimately need to provide additional support.

"With our international borders expected to remain closed for the foreseeable future, our priority right now is getting Australians travelling to parts where we have successfully suppressed the spread of COVID-19."

Domestic border closures have been a point of contention between state and federal governments since the beginning of the pandemic, with Birmingham and Prime Minister Scott Morrison repeatedly calling for them to be opened.

Strict border restrictions remain in place in Tasmania and Western Australia for travellers.

Michael Gunner, chief minister of the Northern Territory (NT), on Tuesday declared that the NT's borders would remain closed to coronavirus-affected states for at least 18 months.

Tourism is the NT's biggest employer with 11.8 percent of workers employed in the sector.

Simon Westaway, executive director of the Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), said that confusion about domestic travel restrictions were a "handbrake" costing the industry billions of dollars.

"(There) now appears a genuine disconnect around how various governments are approaching what one hopes is a future pathway to reopening our internal borders," he said. (Xinhua)