The Federal Government is again ramping up pressure on states and territories to open their borders, releasing modelling predicting a $55 billion hit to the nation’s tourism industry this year.
- The Tourism Minister said the nation risks further job losses if borders remain shut “any longer than is necessary”
- He urged all state and territory leaders to take a “proportionate” approach to border restrictions
- The Prime Minister is on Friday expected to push for a nationally-agreed definition of a “hotspot”
A day after it was confirmed that Australia was in recession for the first time in nearly three decades, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said “disproportionate” approaches to state borders were costing jobs across the country.
He pointed to modelling by Tourism Research Australia which showed that even if internal borders had been open from the beginning of this financial year, spending on domestic tourism was forecast to fall by $23 billion compared to 2019.
It also showed the cost of keeping Australia’s international travel ban in place would reach $31 billion over the same period, assuming it did not lift until at least July 2021.
Overall, the value of the domestic tourism industry was expected to fall from $138 billion to $83 billion, even before ongoing state border closures were taken into account.
The modelling was produced in May and has previously been reported but Senator Birmingham officially released the figures ahead of a discussion over state border closures at Friday’s National Cabinet meeting.
“Inconsistent and disproportionate approaches to border restrictions by some states and territories will continue to cause job losses in parts of our tourism industry,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Our airlines, airports, hotels and tour operators rely on people doing more than taking a short self-drive holiday and we risk more job losses in these sectors if borders remain shut any longer than is necessary.
“I urge all state and territory leaders to take a sensible and proportionate approach to border restrictions, as getting more Australians travelling interstate will help save tourism businesses and jobs.”
COVID-19 hotspots on the agenda at National Cabinet this week
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants as many COVID-19 restrictions as possible to be lifted by Christmas, saying Australia could not resign itself to being a “dislocated nation.”
He is expected to use tomorrow’s National Cabinet meeting to push for a nationally-agreed definition of a COVID-19 “hotspot”, a task Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth described as “very challenging”.
“Firstly, you need to know why we’re defining a hotspot,” Dr Coatsworth said.
“Is it about travel across interstate borders, is it about the public health measures that an individual state is going to introduce in response to one, two, five or 10 cases?
“There are different reasons why you might want to define a hotspot and the reasons why you want to define the hotspot actually affects the definition.”
Mr Morrison has warned that the Commonwealth will adopt a hotspot definition regardless of whether state and territory leaders agree.
They have defended their right to maintain border restrictions, with the West Australian and Queensland governments using Wednesday’s national accounts figures to argue they were performing better than those without strict measures in place.
“WA’s hard border is no drag on the national economy,” WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt said on Twitter.
“What is clear — control of the virus supports economic recovery.”
Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick agreed, saying “stronger action on borders” meant his state was “better placed for a strong economic recovery”.