Australian Economic Recovery Demands Open Borders: Business Groups

Australian Economic Recovery Demands Open Borders: Business Groups
Vehicle checkpoint on the Pacific Highway on the Queensland-New South Wales border in Brisbane on April 15, 2020. (Patrick Hamilton /AFP via Getty Images)

State governments need to wean themselves off border barriers or risk the economic recovery, business groups say.

The demand comes as Health Minister Greg Hunt talks up the prospect of a vaccine being made available in the first three months of 2021.

The federal government has pumped $1.7 billion into two lead vaccine candidates, with the latest trials of the Oxford University AstraZeneca vaccine seen as positive.

"It means we are on track for first vaccines to be delivered in the first quarter of 2021," Hunt says.

There are also positive signs from the University of Queensland's "molecular clamp" program.

National employer organisation the Australian Industry Group says the remaining state and territory border restrictions are becoming more unjustifiable as each day passes.

"State governments should wean themselves off the political attraction of border barriers or risk their economic recovery and the jobs of their community," Ai Group chief Innes Willox said.

Willox said upbeat predictions about the recession being at an end did not reflect the "mixed picture" being reported by businesses themselves.

"From a labour market perspective, we are definitely not out of the woods with effective unemployment still at 1990s recession levels."

The Victorian economy will be in for a boost with Melburnians taking advantage of the lifting of restrictions after almost 16 weeks of lockdown, rushing to shopping strips, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Victoria recorded two new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday and two more deaths.

Melbourne's 14-day average and mystery case numbers have both dropped.

Regional Victoria has had zero coronavirus cases in the past 14 days.

NSW has reported one new case of locally transmitted COVID-19 and another seven infections in hotel quarantine.

Authorities are warning people not to become complacent as coronavirus restrictions continue to ease.

A returned overseas traveller quarantining in the Northern Territory has also tested positive.

The 31-year-old woman, who arrived on a repatriation flight from India this week, has been placed in isolation at Howard Springs.

The government is struggling to deal with Australians seeking to return from overseas, with the latest figures showing 34,000 are looking for flights—up 2000 from the previous week.

By Paul Osborne