Tourism sector pleads for border certainty
Australia's tourism sector is urging the government to set a time frame for the nation's reopening 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."
Health Minister Greg Hunt says the government is creating a roadmap based on three principles for opening Australia.
"It's about progressive opening, and that is very important for hope and understanding in Australia."
The first principle is what Mr Hunt referred to as "green lanes", or travel bubbles.
The second is the vaccination program and the third is possible changes to quarantine requirements for vaccinated people leaving and arriving in Australia.
"The circumstances of that will be determined by the global medical evidence," Mr Hunt said.
Some 2.66 million vaccinations have now been administered.
Another 351,000 Pfizer doses have also arrived in Australia to be tested by medical regulators.
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."
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 is being 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.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says the government should not threaten citizens with jail time for returning.
"The Australian passport has to mean something," he told reporters in Canberra.
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."
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