Leaders from the agriculture, tourism and education sectors are calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders to deliver a plan to safely reopen our international border, as the costs of Australia’s isolation continue to multiply.
Agriculture, tourism and education are among the industries worst hit by Australia’s strict international border closure – struggling amid an absence of international workers, visitors and students.
National Farmers’ Federation, Chief Executive Tony Mahar, said it was time for National Cabinet to outline a plan to reopen our doors.
“We’re not saying we need to reopen tomorrow. Public safety must always come first, but part of ensuring public safety is planning for the future.
“What we want is clarity over the criteria for reopening the border that will keep Australians safe and allow businesses to plan ahead.
“The absence of any National Cabinet-endorsed roadmap to reopen borders is an embarrassment, and it risks eroding the advantage Australia has earned by successfully managing the pandemic.
“It also sends an adverse signal to our region and the world that is seeing Australia branded a ‘hermit nation’ by commentators,” Mr Mahar said.
Questions industry leaders are calling on National Cabinet to answer in a national roadmap include:
- What proportion of the Australian population must be vaccinated before quarantine-free travel can resume?
- How will Australians be incentivised to meet vaccination targets?
- What criteria will be used to assess ‘border bubble’ arrangements with overseas countries?
- What are the processes and timeframes for fielding, assessing and funding proposals for new purpose-built quarantine facilities?
Group of Eight Chief Executive, Vicki Thomson said Australia’s reputation as a leading destination for education and research was hanging in the balance as universities and international students awaited policy certainty.
“We know that for every three international students studying at a Go8 university, $1 million is injected into the Australian economy,” Ms Thomson said.
“Currently, we have about 30,000 Go8 students studying offshore. These students have stuck by our leading research-intensive universities during the pandemic and they have done that with the expectation that they can eventually be back in Australia to resume their studies on campus.
“However, this ongoing commitment will be hard to maintain unless we can clearly communicate that we have a plan to safely reopen our borders.”
Tourism and Transport Forum CEO, Margy Osmond said Australia risked being left behind as the world reopened.
“We could become one of the only major countries in the world without a comprehensive and well understood timeframe and targets for reopening,” Ms Osmond said.
“The lack of international tourism is setting our sector back about $4 billion per month, and we can’t expect domestic travellers to fill this void – particularly when we’re still facing uncertainty around state borders.
“It’s time to get our head out of the sand and look beyond the vaccine rollout.”
Tony Mahar said without better solutions at the border, farmers faced another harvest without the workers needed to pick and pack the produce Australians and the economy relied on.
“It’s time we got serious about solutions – and that starts with a clear plan for what our international border looks like over the next 24 months.”
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