Prime Minister Scott Morrison has amped up the pressure for states and territory leaders to reopen their borders by Christmas, saying Australia can’t keep living as a “dislocated nation”.
Speaking during question time at parliament on Tuesday, Mr Morrison said a plan needed to be in place to reopen the country and Australians needed to be able to come together with friends and family by December 25.
“By Christmas we should aim for Australians to be able to go to work, to be able to be with their family at Christmas, and to return to visit their friends, and to look forward to a positive 2021,” Mr Morrison said.
“We cannot resign Australia to being a dislocated nation under COVID-19.
“What we must plan to do is, by Christmas, we must work together to ensure we have the protections in place to protect the health and safety of Australians, and to open up our economies, and ensure the ambitions of our federation are returned to again, and they are not resigned as a victim to the coronavirus.”
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Victoria’s second wave of COVID-19 has been the main source of the recent border closures around the country.
The PM noted that some of the border closures were “understandable” but said steps needed to be taken to ensuring these restrictions can be lifted by the end of the year.
“Victoria has turned the corner, and we are planning together – with the Victorian government – to reopen Melbourne,” Mr Morrison said.
“I had discussions last night with the Premier of Victoria and the Premier of New South Wales. That is our commitment, to see Australia opened up again, to see the New South Wales/Victorian border opened up again as soon as it is safe to do so.
“We must return to the ambitions that we set out in May for that plan to open up Australia again.”
NSW is already working towards slowing easing border restrictions, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian announcing the border bubble with Victoria would be expanded to a 50km radius.
This means any resident living within the bubble will be able to obtain a border resident permit into NSW.
This revised permit will allow them to travel across the border from Victoria for school, work, to obtain goods and access certain services.
Ms Berejiklian said the new permits follow “raised concerns” from locals about the current restrictions in place, and says the extended bubble will “make life much easier” for residents on either side of the border.
“We thank the community for your patience during what has been an extremely difficult time,” she said on Tuesday.
“Hand on heart … one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made personally and the Government’s made during this pandemic has been closing the New South Wales-Victorian border. It was a decision of last resort.
“The decision of the government and my decision was coming from a place of good intention and … we won’t leave the border closed for a day longer than we need to.”
However, it seems the PM’s border advice isn’t resonating with everyone, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announcing an extension on border restrictions.
On Tuesday, Ms Palaszczuk announced the Queensland border would be closed to NSW resident until at least October.
The premier said there would need to be a month of no community transmission in the southern states before the border could be opened again.
“Dr Young, our Chief Health Officer, has made it very clear that she doesn’t want to see community transmission and there is community transmission at the moment in southern states,” Ms Palaszczuk said.