‘We Need People Moving Across This Country Again’: Australia’s Trade Minister

May 19, 2020 Updated: May 21, 2020

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has urged states and territories to reopen borders for domestic travel in an effort to get the economy moving again.

He told Nine’s Today program on May 19 that while public health is crucial Australia needed “people moving across this country again” when it’s safe to do so.

Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland have all indicated that they won’t reopen before the end of winter, effectively wiping out the lucrative winter holiday season for tourism groups.

Scenes of Mt Buller Ski Season
Dad and son snow play on the toboggan on July 11, 2015 in Mount Buller, Australia. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Queensland won’t reopen until at least September, to the further dismay of the tourism industry.

“Opening the State’s borders would be crucial for the tourism industry’s recovery,” Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive Officer Mark Olsen told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.

However, he was aware of the risks of rushing this decision.

“Opening the borders prematurely would only harm the industry further if it caused COVID-19 to spread,” Olsen said.

Tasmanian border controls remain but returning locals can quarantine at home.

“Those states who’ve got border controls in place, assuming we’ve continued to see very low rates of transmission of COVID-19, ought to be looking at opening up their borders,” Birmingham said.

This follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s expectation to resume domestic travel from July when the country is expected to reach the final stage of its three-step plan to reopen the economy.

Meanwhile, Qantas and Jetstar, have said that they plan to ease restrictions. Qantas announced a series of measures this morning, as it prepares for a return to domestic flights from June 12, including masks for all passengers.

But with borders closed, tourism operators have no way forward.

It comes amid warnings Australia’s $80 billion ($US52 billion) domestic tourism industry faces collapse if state borders remain closed, crippling the market for years to come, and costing tens of thousands of jobs.

The tourism industry has borne the brunt of the blow as governments acted to control the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.