An ACT-South Australia travel ‘bubble’ could be in operation as soon as the October long weekend with the two jurisdictions aiming to have the first domestic travel pilot program up and running as soon as possible.
The next destination could be Darwin, before expanding to include Brisbane and Hobart, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said following today’s National Cabinet deliberations.
Flights between Canberra and its New Zealand sister city Wellington could then commence by November or December, according to Mr Barr.
“If we can make it work [with Adelaide], then that opens the doors for other city pairs and other opportunities for Canberrans and that is going to be an important next step as we head through spring and into summer,” he said.
“Ultimately this is a decision for the South Australian Government, whether they will accept residents from the ACT without a two-week quarantine requirement. We have already agreed that we can receive travellers from COVID-safe domestic destinations so we are ready to go.”
When asked whether he could see the border being opened with the ACT by the long weekend (5 October), South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said “yes”.
Carriers would require between seven and 14 days’ notice to stand up new flights, and Canberra Airport is ready to go with one or two flights a day, which would carry between 100 and 150 passengers each, Mr Barr said.
There is also the possibility that South Australia may open up to NSW as well, mitigating the need for Canberrans to prove their residency.
However, further restrictions or caveats may be imposed on travellers from other cities such as Brisbane, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk indicating that travellers may have to originally provide proof of ACT residency or take a COVID-19 test before flying.
Identification and information about who is flying and where they have been was also flagged by Queensland. Such measures would require changes to federal legislation, Mr Barr said.
“If we are going to make a breakthrough here, it is going to require leadership and reading the room [at National Cabinet] that is going to come from the ACT and South Australia,” Mr Barr said.
“The next best opportunity – again reading the room and what the premiers were saying – will be Canberra and Darwin, the two territories working together.
“We will pursue those as the two short-term possibilities.”
Christmas has been set as a tentative timeline to open Australia’s domestic borders by every state and territory except Western Australia.
Meanwhile, the ACT’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman, has postponed the easing of restrictions for another fortnight although a second trial of 3000 people at Canberra Stadium will proceed this weekend.
There remain no cases of COVID-19 in the ACT.