Samantha Armytage: Billionaire Clive Palmer has launched a High Court challenge to Western Australia’s border closure. After being refused entry into the state, the mining magnate argues the closure is unconstitutional and that cross-border movement is a personal right.
And we are joined now by Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham in Adelaide. Minister, good morning to you, welcome.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Sam.
Samantha Armytage: Given Australia’s very low coronavirus case numbers at the moment, should state borders be opened immediately?
Simon Birmingham: Maybe not quite immediately, Sam, but I hope very soon and well ahead of the type of September timeframe that Premier Palaszczuk in Queensland has been talking about. The states and territories are doing a great job getting kids back to school, getting pubs and restaurants reopened, making that progress and that all appears to be happening quite safely so far without so any spike in COVID-19 numbers, and we hope that that continues. And if it does continue safely and we get those intra-state restrictions lifted, then we ought to allow people to move freely across the interstate borders as well. Because in the end, one in 13 Australian jobs is reliant on our tourism industry. We don’t have international visitors coming at present and we won’t for some time, so getting domestic travellers moving again is crucial to those jobs and businesses.
Samantha Armytage: There are figures out this morning that Queensland is losing $53 million a day at the moment. Does it seem absurd to you that if a Trans-Tasman bubble was to open right now — which doesn’t seem like it’s that far away — that you couldn’t go to Queensland but you could go to New Zealand? What is Annastacia Palaszczuk doing?
Simon Birmingham: Queensland is the Australian state most heavily dependent and reliant upon the tourism industry. More small businesses and more jobs in Queensland depend upon tourism than anywhere else in the country. And yet we’ve got a circumstance where they seemed to be holding out the longest, pretending that somehow there hasn’t been success in suppressing COVID-19 elsewhere in Australia. Every Australian state and territory has had an enormous success in stopping the spread and suppressing the spread of COVID-19 compared to where it was a couple of months ago when these restrictions were put in place. Some may be close to eliminating, but certainly all have had a huge success, and we want to make sure that we can get and save the jobs in those tourism businesses.
Samantha Armytage: Yeah. Absolutely. Well we know Queensland has an election in October, but I think they need to sort it out before then. Simon Birmingham, thank you. We’ll talk soon.