States and territories to foot the tourism bill for unnecessary border restrictions

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham does not want borders closed a day longer than necessary.

State and territory governments have been warned they will be financially responsible for tourism businesses impacted by unnecessary border restrictions.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has delivered a blunt warning to states and territories that the federal government will not prop up struggling businesses reliant on interstate travel that have been crippled by the ongoing border closures.

“State border restrictions need to be proportionate to the health risk and shouldn’t remain in place for one more day than they need to,” he said.

“If a state or territory border were to remain closed to a jurisdiction that had successfully suppressed the spread of COVID-19, then that state or territory government will need to be accountable to their tourism industry and will ultimately need to provide additional support.”

Tourism groups have been calling for a coordinated national strategy to reopen borders. But state and territory governments have been steadfast in going their own way, with public opinion so far backing their respective leaders in keeping tight control over their borders.

While NSW has managed to keep its borders open and business going while controlling a steady trickle of coronavirus infections, WA, Queensland, Tasmania and the NT have all favoured tight border restrictions. Which is a problem for Birmingham, who knows that the only chance the tourism sector has while international borders are closed is to encourage the domestic market to fill that gap. Something that is impossible to achieve under the current circumstances.

“With our international borders expected to remain closed for the foreseeable future, our priority right now is getting Australians travelling to parts where we have successfully suppressed the spread of COVID-19,” Birmingham said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has kept his distance in the border debate so far, conceding that hope of lifting all restrictions by Christmas was unlikely.