An intra-Australia travel bubble covering Canberra, Tasmania and South Australia could be up and running as early as July, according to ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
Mr Barr said all three states had instructed their respective tourism authorities to work with airlines and airports to establish a safe and commercially viable model that could see mandatory quarantine periods waived for Canberrans.
“I have had conversations with both the South Australian and Tasmanian premiers and we have all agreed that it is a priority to restart aviation between our cities,” he said.
“This will be important for our tourism sector. Obviously there are some specific concerns and challenges that need to be addressed in relation to quarantine periods and the like that really do need to be waived in order for this to work.”
After going more than a month without recording a new COVID-19 case, Mr Barr said the ACT is in a good position to resume interstate travel with other jurisdictions.
“Those jurisdictions that have closed their borders, if they are looking for a measured way of reopening the borders, and to do so in a safe way, then they are welcome to work with the ACT Government,” he said.
“[They can] do so with confidence given Canberra’s very strong performance to the coronavirus.”
Flights with the “safe city pairs” of Hobart and Adelaide would only start with a couple of flights a day so that each jurisdiction would only need to manage a couple of hundred tourists at a time rather than thousands, Mr Barr said.
When asked if he was worried that interstate residents would travel to Canberra to take advantage of the flights, Mr Barr said he was not concerned about the prospect of travellers using Canberra’s open borders as a gateway.
“All of these restarting of aviation issues are going to require somewhere to go first so, no, I would not think it would require a proof of residency,” he said.
“Frankly if you are so determined to get to Tasmania from Northern NSW that you are prepared to drive to Canberra to do so, then good luck to you, you must really want a holiday in Tasmania. That is not what this [policy] is seeking to resolve.”
International flights to New Zealand are also on the cards after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined a National Cabinet meeting last month and spoke about establishing a trans-Tasman travel bubble.
Last month Mr Barr confirmed that he was lobbying airlines to establish a direct route between Canberra and New Zealand.
Airlines have indicated they would need at least three weeks’ preparation before they could put on more interstate flights, Mr Barr said, although he noted it is likely that the resumption of interstate travel will begin with chartered flights for people looking to return home.
“It may be that the first ones are chartered flights and that really is about getting people home and to be able to visit family and friends,” the Chief Minister said.
“A similar situation clearly applies with flights to New Zealand, but this has to start somewhere. It can start in a safe and measured way.
“We believe that we can do this in a safe way with Tasmania, and South Australia and New Zealand, and then ultimately with Queensland and Western Australia as well.”