Australia’s NT Leader Explains Why Border Restrictions Dropped Despite Former Tough Stance

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Writer
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at steve.milne@epochtimes.com.au.
February 22, 2022 Updated: February 22, 2022

Northern Territory (NT) Chief Minister Michael Gunner has provided an explanation as to why entry restrictions to the Australian territory have been removed despite having previously taken a hard line on COVID-19 vaccination status and testing.

In a statement released over the weekend, Gunner said that the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is now widespread throughout the territory and so the government is redirecting health and police resources to where they are most needed in a proportionate manner.

The current number of active cases of COVID-19 in the Territory is estimated to be around 6,100.

“The COVID-19 risk from interstate arrivals no longer outweighs the COVID-19 risk in the Territory and this means it is no longer appropriate to direct significant resources monitoring arrivals,” Gunner said.

“Friday’s decision brings us into line with every mainland jurisdiction outside of WA.”

The NT government page for international arrivals now reads, “There are no longer any entry restrictions on people arriving in the Northern Territory and no requirement for a border entry form.”

“International travellers must follow the pre-arrival advice on the Smartraveller website.”

This means that interstate travellers can now enter the territory whether vaccinated against COVID-19 or not, and with no isolation period required, while the Federal Government has the responsibility of making sure that international arrivals are at least double-vaccinated.

Other reasons given for the about-face on border entry are the Territory’s high double-dose vaccination rate, which Gunner said is over 95 percent, as well as the range of public health measures the NT has in place, such as workplace vaccine mandates and a vaccine pass requirement to enter licenced premises, cinemas, and entertainment venues.

The Country Liberal Party (CLP) declined to comment on whether they supported the scrapping of border restrictions or not.

This comes as Australia opened its borders to international visitors on Monday, and the NT government is injecting $12.8 million (US$9.1 million) into the tourism and business sectors in an effort to attract travellers and workers to the territory, thus helping COVID-19-impacted businesses gain momentum.

Among the measures to be funded is the $2.6 million Working Holiday Maker Campaign and Tourism and Hospitality Turbo Charge, a highly-targeted interstate and overseas marketing campaign to attract around 2,000 new tourism and hospitality workers by April, ensuring businesses can accommodate customers and deliver services.

An international leisure tourism marketing campaign will receive $3 million, and work closely with Tourism Australia to target specific markets and support airline partnerships, as well as travel trade activity. Another $3 million will be spent on supporting industry to deliver projects and strategies to attract and retain workforces.

Other measures include the relaunch of the Work Stay Play incentive, through which local hospitality and tourism businesses can apply for up to $1,500 for each new employee they attract to the Territory for the peak dry season and $1.35 million to boost the Territory’s skilled migration capacity.

In addition, initiatives are also underway by Study NT to lure international students to the Territory, including a destination awareness marketing campaign in key focus markets.

Steve Milne
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at steve.milne@epochtimes.com.au.