The plan is for the borders of every state to open except designated hotspots that have high rates of community transmission, but WA is not on board with the idea.
The PM said he wants a “sustainable set of arrangements where Australians could move around, using a hot spot model by Christmas” he also wants to include New Zealand in the plan, if it goes ahead we may see some international travel for the first time since March. Scott Morrison said: “There will be further discussion on how that can be more specifically defined.”
On Friday, National Cabinet met to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victorian outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment, border restrictions and getting the economy moving again.
There have been more than 26,000 confirmed cases throughout Australia and 737 people have died. Victoria’s second wave means we now have around 2,500 active cases but infection rates have remained low in all the other states and territories except Victoria. Seven of Australia’s eight states and territories are successfully suppressing COVID-19 and most Australians in those jurisdictions can live and work in a COVID-safe economy.
Talking about the hot spot idea, West Australian Premier Mark McGowan declared ahead of Friday’s national cabinet meeting that COVID-19 hotspots are far less effective than border closures and confirmed WA’s borders will remain closed until community transmission of coronavirus has been eliminated along the east coast.
In response to the Premier’s stance Australian Hotels Association (AHA) WA said it understands the WA Government prioritising health considerations for the state but keeping WA’s border closed will come at a cost.
AHA(WA) CEO Bradley Woods said whilst WA is in a fortunate economic position, keeping its borders closed means the burden is being borne by Perth hotels and some parts of the state’s remote tourism sector, with careers lost and employment opportunities sacrificed.
He said: “If a vaccine for COVID-19 is still a long way off, there will be even more long term negative implications. We must also plan to protect Western Australia from losing not just tourism but also conferences and the convention industry. As other states open borders and people are free to travel, they will be sure to steal business away from WA.
“The AHA is continuing our close engagement with the Premier and Minister for Tourism. Our immediate priority is seeking from the WA Government a roadmap to the borders opening so that industry can navigate the challenging months ahead.”
Meanwhile Scott Morrison said agreements and resolutions could be made without every state being on board: “Not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station. But it is important the bus leaves the station, and we all agree on that.”
A statement from the PM said:“National Cabinet agreed on the need to work together cooperatively for the benefit of all Australians and as a Federation of the Commonwealth, states and territories. We need to continue to protect people’s health but we also need to find the road back from the economic crisis that COVID-19 has generated.
“The Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory agreed in-principle to develop a new plan for Australia to reopen by Christmas, including the use of the hotspot concept for travel between jurisdictions.”
The Commonwealth hotspots definition would also be used as a starting point for any future COVIDSafe travel arrangements encompassing New Zealand and those states and territories applying the hotspots definition.