Calls for National Approach to Reopen Australia's Internal Borders by Christmas

Calls for National Approach to Reopen Australia's Internal Borders by Christmas
Australia's Trade Minister Simon Birmingham addresses media outside the Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on, Oct. 16, 2019. (Rod McGuirk/AP Photo)
Caden Pearson

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to see most internal state borders open by Christmas.

To achieve this, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham is urging state and territory leaders to use a common national approach to define COVID-19 hotspots in a way that allows people to move around the country again.

"We are seeing many, many jobs being lost across the country and they will continue to be lost in our travel and tourism sector, and many lives disrupted, especially in cross-border communities ..." Birmingham told reporters on Sept. 1.

His comments come as Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk announced the same day that Queensland's borders would remain closed for another month.

The premier said Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young wants to see southern states like New South Wales, in particular, go through two COVID-19 incubation cycles without any cases of community transmission.

"Dr. Young, our chief health officer, has made it very clear that she doesn't want to see community transmission and there is community transmission at the moment in the southern states," said Palaszczuk.

However, Birmingham told ABC Radio's Fran Kelly that Commonwealth health officials have been looking at how hotspots can be used as a means to facilitate greater movement of people across Australia without jeopardising health outcomes.

He urged state and territory leaders "to not be close-minded" but instead engage in evidence-based approaches.

"I find it incredibly disappointing that a premier like Annastacia Palaszczuk would be so closed-minded to even looking at the evidence and rule it out before she has seen it," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled the federal government will go it alone on the new definition if the states don't sign up.

He has floated the Danish traffic light hotspot system, which uses yellow to highlight open borders with cases fewer than 20 for every 100,000 residents in an area.

The orange alert level signals quarantine is needed when case rates exceed 30 per 100,000 people, while a red light bans travel when infection spikes occur.

Opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused the prime minister of criticising the Queensland Labor government's border closures, while going easy on Liberal-controlled Tasmania and South Australia.

"It's not national, and it is not a cabinet," the Labor leader told 4BC radio.

"Scott Morrison chairs these meetings and the premiers tell each other what they're going to do. Then he goes out and has a press conference and announces it."