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Borders closed till 2021, bubble wavers as strategy outlined

June 19, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Australia’s international borders are set to stay closed until next year, according to the country’s Minister of Tourism, and no date has been set for opening them.

“I do sadly think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off,” Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham told the National Press Club in Canberra.

“Just because of the practicalities of the volumes that are involved and the need for us to first and foremost keep putting health first.”

When Birmingham was asked whether that meant the borders would not open until next year, he told the ABC, “I think that is more likely the case”.

The Government is still in talks about a trans-Tasman travel bubble with New Zealand, but no date has been set for that either.

Just when it seemed New Zealand had beaten the coronavirus, someone in Auckland made a barely comprehensible blunder and let two positive Covid-19 cases leave isolation without being tested. The women, two sisters from Britain, drove to Wellington to visit a terminally ill relative, meeting people on the way. Hundreds of people are now being tested.

Yesterday New Zealand faced a fresh coronavirus case – a man in his 60s who arrived in Auckland from Pakistan on 13 June on Air New Zealand flight NZ124, transiting through Doha and Melbourne. And there’s more: New Zealand police say six people absconded from managed isolation after being granted compassionate leave from Covid-19 quarantine to attend a funeral in the North Island city of Hamilton.

Pandemic

All compassionate leave and special exceptions have now ended. New Zealand has handed responsibility for its quarantine facilities over to the army, who will also beef up border control. The country has gone back to battling the virus, after having been hailed throughout the world for its exemplary approach to beating Covid-19.

IN AUSTRALIA, some states, like South Australia, are beginning to ease their state border restrictions, but Covid-19 is still bubbling away quietly in various corners, particularly in Victoria.

Victoria yesterday recorded a further 18 new cases of Covid-19, including a third Black Lives Matter (BLM) protester. The jump in cases came a day after Victoria recorded its largest single-day increase in coronavirus infections in over a month.

The BLM protests were seen as an almost sure-fire way of spreading the virus. Holding the mass gatherings during a pandemic was denounced by police and health authorities as reckless and irresponsible – but the organisers pushed ahead anyway. Now come the consequences – though organisers of a BLM rally planned for Wollongong this weekend say they will defy any court order to stop it, ABC Radio reported this morning.

Simon Birmingham said the decision to close Australia’s international border was one of the main reasons for the country’s’ success in suppressing Covid-19. The border would not be opened for general travel anytime soon.

Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

“It is no exaggeration to say that every Australian has been affected by Covid-19 –some tragically more so than others,” Birmingham told his audience.

“The OECD tells us that we are in the midst of the biggest global downturn since the Great Depression.

“International tourism has also been vital in terms of strengthening people-to-people ties and cultural links. It is also a major economic injector for so many tourism towns across regional Australia.

“This all adds up to Australian jobs. One in five Australian jobs relies on trade, one in 10 on Foreign Direct Investment and one in 13 on tourism.”

No industry in Australia had demonstrated greater resilience than tourism, Birmingham said.

“Firstly, there were last summer’s devastating bushfires. Then, Covid-19 hit.

“My heart breaks when I hear of some of the stresses so many tourism operators are facing right now, having been hit so hard for so long and knowing that they are likely to be the last parts of Australian business to return to true normality. I saw some of those stresses up close when I visited Cairns and the Gold Coast right before border and travel restrictions were put in place.

“But true to form, our tourism operators, small and family businesses many of them, across Australia, aren’t wallowing. They are eager to get back to doing what they do best: giving visitors exceptional experiences to brighten their lives.

“While our international borders remain necessarily closed, enormous opportunity exists to harness the potential of Australians holidaying at home.”

Black lives matter

Birmingham said international tourism was usually worth AUD 45.2 billion to Australia’s economy each year.

“However, Australians like to travel, and last year, we spent some AUD 65.2 billion on travel overseas.

“As states open up their borders, Tourism Australia now stands ready to relaunch our Holiday Here This Year campaign. For those Australians who can afford to do so, we want them to feel an almost patriotic duty to get out and support the jobs and small businesses of their fellow citizens by having whatever Aussie holiday they can.

“We’re also working with the tourism industry on recovery strategies. We will be returning strongly to international markets as circumstances allow, playing to all of Australia’s strengths. There’s still nothing like Australia for adventure, nature, food and wine, outdoor experiences and vibrant cities.

“We should have pride in our unique and wonderful experiences. I hope Australians use this time to travel across our magical continent and become better informed ambassadors of all that we have to offer.

“There is also nothing like Australia in terms of our health response to Covid-19, and the opportunity our management of the pandemic presents to give a cautious travelling public the confidence that Australia is safe to travel around.

“Where possible, we will not only be drawing tourists back with our incredible experiences, but also reminding them of our strong health system and reputation as a nation that is safe, open and welcoming.

“Beyond the immediate recovery, when we return to finalising our Tourism 2030 strategy, I’m also determined that Indigenous tourism will be a bigger priority for the future.

“The stories of the oldest living culture in the world should be anchored in the experiences our nation shares with cultural tourists from around the world. Exceptional Indigenous-owned and operated tourism businesses like Nitmiluk Tours and Cicada Lodge have added depth and vibrancy to our tourism offering in recent years.

“I hope that our government’s AUD 40 million investment in supporting the growth of the Indigenous tourism businesses can deliver similar dividends to Indigenous Australians as those that are being yielded through our Indigenous procurement policy.”

Written by Peter Needham

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