To open, or not to open, that is the question – and Australian state premiers can’t agree on an answer. Gladys Berejiklian of NSW wants them open, Mark McGowan of Western Australia and Annastacia Palaszczuk of Queensland want them closed, and everyone is getting petty.
Right now, you’d be forgiven for being confused as to whether state borders are open or not. It’s bloody confusing, depends on which state you’re travelling from and to, and seems to change on the daily.
Here’s the deal: WA, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have all closed their borders, meaning anyone who travels there will need to isolate for two weeks. NSW and Victoria, the states with the most infections, did not.
Now that the curve has well and truly flattened, state and federal governments are looking to the next big problem: an economy on the verge of recession, and how to fix it.
Berejiklian sees domestic travel as a key way out of this economic mess. She announced on Tuesday that travel restrictions in NSW will lift on June 1, and encouraged all interstate travellers to book a holiday in the state.
Travel restrictions in NSW will be lifted from June 1. You will be able to holiday anywhere in the State. Remember at all times to practise strict social distancing, frequent hand washing, and plan and book ahead. Avoid shared facilities. pic.twitter.com/G10NlgIhnu— Gladys Berejiklian (@GladysB) May 20, 2020
Federal tourism minister Simon Birmingham is also singing the same tune. He’s encouraging state and territory leaders to open state borders to domestic travel as soon as possible.
However, the other states aren’t on board. Tasmania, Queensland, the Northern Territory and WA have all said it’s far too soon to even think about opening state borders.
Here’s where it gets messy.
Mark McGowan claimed WA was being “bullied” by Berejiklian. When he closed the borders in in early April – an unprecedented move that warned non-residents and non-FIFO workers they would be sent packing if they stepped foot in the state – he said it would be for six months. It’s been less than two.
“The border with the east will stay up for as long as is necessary to protect the health of Western Australians,” McGowan said yesterday.
“We’re not going to give in to that sort of bullying by the New South Wales Premier or anyone else — we are going to protect the health and the economy of Western Australia.”
He also told Birmingham to effectively shove a sock in it. “He can say what he likes,” McGowan said, staying firm that WA’s borders will not be opening.
Now back to Gladys. She accused the other state and territory premiers of using the situation to boost their own popularity – and it’s worth noting that McGowan is currently Australia’s most popular state leader, sitting at a bloody high 89 percent.
“In fact, I’m sure those premiers are getting more popular in their states for keeping their borders closed,” Berejiklian said.
Cut to Annastacia Palaszczuk, this morning. She hit back hard, saying that Queensland “won’t be lectured to by the worst performing state in Australia”. Ouch. She’s not wrong though – NSW has double the total infection numbers (3,081) than the next worst state (Victoria with 1,580), and that’s before you get to the Ruby Princess debacle.
“NSW needs to get its act together and get its community transmission down and we’ll all be better off throughout this nation, including in Queensland,” Palaszczuk said.
She’s previously indicated that Queensland’s borders will likely stay closed until September.
Meanwhile, Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner said he can’t wait to have visitors back, “but only when it’s safe”, and SA’s premier Steven Marshall said his state borders wouldn’t be opening “anytime soon”.
For once, we have almost the entire country biffing with each other, and it doesn’t involve Victorian premier Dan Andrews.