Broader Australian domestic border consistency demanded

Chorus of Associates sings for a national framework to provide greater certainty

A collective of 28 Australian associates has called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to develop a consistent set of principles for all states and territories regarding border closures, in reaction to coronavirus containment.

In an open letter to the PM, State Premiers and Chief Ministers, the group insisted changes were necessary to counter the current “patchwork of inconsistent” rules which were having a detrimental impact on the Australian economy.

The letter was supported by 28 associations and organisations.

“The rapid and piecemeal implementation of complex and inconsistent domestic border restrictions in response to COVID-19 is impacting families, destroying jobs and crippling the Australian economy’s ability to recover from this pandemic,” the collective said in its letter.

Among the cooperative is the Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), the Transport & Tourism Forum Australia (TTF), the Australian Export Tourism Council (ATEC) and the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA), along with Airlines for Australia and New Zealand (A4ANZ), which itself comprises Qantas, Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Jetstar and Regional Express, and multiple state and territory Chamber of Commerce.

“Border closures have been an important part of Australia’s response to COVID-19 and it is imperative that the health of Australians underpins policy decisions.”

The group said it supported the National Cabinet’s plan for a nationally agreed COVID Safe plan that was flagged in May, but what has emerged is “a patchwork of inconsistent state and territory-based rules that ignore the reality of the way small and large businesses operate across borders and Australians live their lives”.

“We accept that states and territories have the right to ease – or reimpose – restrictions at a different pace based on medical advice among other factors. However, many of the border measures imposed to date appear to be arbitrary and lacking timeframes and review or end dates.”

The alliance said the governing of domestic border controls varies widely across the country, with extensive differences in processes for border pass applications, quarantine requirements and more.

“Many of the employers worst hit by the COVID-19 crisis have been forced to apply significant resources to comply with rapidly-changing and variable rules across the nation. This cannot continue unchecked. A transparent and easily understood set of nationally consistent principles is urgently needed. ”

The group called for a national framework “that clearly sets out the thresholds of when internal border controls can be implemented and how they would apply”. A solution it says will provide “greater certainty for business and for all Australians.”

View the letter in its entirety here.

Lead image: A near-empty Qantas Domestic Terminal at Sydney Airport on a Friday morning in July 2020 | credit: © Guy Dundas

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