Canberra Airport has approached the Queensland and South Australia governments, asking for a new “travel bubble” to be created between the ACT and the two states, separately.
- Canberra has been free of known cases of COVID-19 for more than a fortnight
- The head of Canberra Airport has urged South Australia and Queensland to open up travel with the ACT
- The premiers of both states appear to be lukewarm on the idea
Queensland’s border is currently closed to non-residents without special permission, while visitors to South Australia must self-quarantine for 14 days.
The airport’s proposal would allow ACT residents to travel to both states and avoid any quarantine requirements upon arriving.
It would effectively create a special exemption, allowing Canberrans to holiday in both states.
ACT travellers would need to apply for a permit to travel to either state, based on their ACT residency.
It is suggested the step be taken when the ACT and either state reach “stage two” in the national reopening framework, potentially within weeks.
The airport argues that travel between Canberra and both jurisdictions is an “incremental” step to restarting tourism, and should be considered safe given the ACT’s low rate of COVID-19 infections.
The ACT was the first jurisdiction nationally to record no active cases of the virus, and has not reported a new case for more than a fortnight.
In a letter to South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron suggests it is in the state’s interest to take such a step.
“There is much demand from business between our two cities and states, and there is also significant demand from the desire to visit friends and relatives between our two regions,” he said.
“Further, this incremental — and safe — opening up of access to South Australia for tourism will support jobs in your state, from Adelaide into the wine regions and beyond.”
Neither South Australia nor Queensland has yet indicated when they might loosen their border restrictions.
When contacted by the ABC, the offices of both premiers indicated the airport’s suggestion was unlikely to be taken up.
A spokesperson for Mr Marshall suggested “the health advice hasn’t changed on this matter”, while a spokesperson for Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Premier would “listen to the advice of her chief health officer”.
Mr Byron said he wanted both states to keep the ACT in mind as they began to consider reopening.
“The idea of incremental, first steps rather than a floodgates approach to the relaxation of borders — whether it’s within Australia or even across the trans-Tasman — makes a lot sense,” he said.
“It’s just like sending your children back to school one day a week or two days a week at first, and then returning to a full return to school.”
He suggested he had the support of ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s office in making the approaches.
SA and Qld may be out, but NSW is firmly in
Canberrans looking to escape the ACT for a getaway will have at least a few familiar options soon.
The New South Wales Government announced this morning that the state would reopen for tourism from June 1, with all travel to be permitted.
But Mr Barr asked that ACT residents think twice before taking their holiday business outside Canberra, suggesting the local economy could also use their support.
“I’m not encouraging anyone to go, but people shouldn’t feel like they’re the worst person in the world if they want to go down to the coast or go for a holiday in NSW,” he said.
He flagged a similar “soft” reopening of Canberra’s tourism economy, timed around the easing of travel restrictions in NSW.
Mr Barr suggested the ACT Government would look to the Queen’s Birthday long weekend — the first weekend after the eased restrictions take effect — as the first major weekend the city was expecting interstate tourists.