Tourism sector pleads for border certainty

Travel beyond Australia's border is expected to happen in stages, says Greg Hunt.
Travel beyond Australia's border is expected to happen in stages, says Greg Hunt.

Australia's tourism sector is urging the government to set a time frame for the nation to reopen as question marks remain over when international travel will resume.

While Tuesday's federal budget assumes Australia's international border will open next year, senior government ministers say there will be no rush to do so.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief Margy Osmond is calling for a clear calendar for when Australia will open, based on the vaccination rollout.

"It is just too hard for the industry at this point in time when we've got no certainty about dates," she said on Monday.

"When we do finally open the door to international tourists again, what on earth are they going to see and do? Hardly any of those attractions will still be there.

"As countries all over the world put in place calendars and targets for opening, that is all we are asking for."

Senior coalition minister Simon Birmingham said Australia's border closure was the most important factor in keeping the virus out of the country.

"Australians want us to maintain that ability to keep them safe and to keep their jobs safe, and the border controls are a key part of that," he told ABC radio.

"We will absolutely maintain them because in doing so we're saving lives and we're protecting their jobs."

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says it's imperative the government stick to a single message for certainty.

"It's very confusing and for the business community trying to get a handle on future investments and on where these issues are going, the government needs to keep a single message for 24 hours," he told Sydney radio 2GB.

Despite the budget's 2022 assumption, Scott Morrison said the international border would only open when safe to do so.

"We still have a long way to go and there are still many uncertainties ahead," the prime minister said.

The Federal Court will on Monday be asked to overturn the government's ban on Australians returning from India.

The temporary ban is due to end on May 15 and involves anyone attempting to defy the rules being threatened with fines of up to $66,600 or five years in prison, or both.

Liberal senator James Paterson, who is the head of parliament's national security committee, said he hoped such a ban never happened again.

"An enormous threshold has been crossed that I really would have preferred was not crossed," he told Sky News.

"I think criminalising Australian citizens returning to their own country is a step too far."

Meanwhile, NSW has opened its first mass vaccination hub which will be able to administer 30,000 COVID-19 jabs per week.

The state recorded no new cases on Monday but officials are still searching for how a Sydney man contracted the virus last week.

Australian Associated Press