Topics: End of outbound travel exemption requirement for fully vaccinated Australians.
DAVID KOCH: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews joins us now. Minister, how significant is this step in Australia’s reopening?
KAREN ANDREWS: Today is an enormously significant day. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here now; there’s no looking back; Australia is open for business! People can reunite overseas with their families; they can start to travel again; so today is an enormously significant day.
DAVID KOCH: How worried are you? Because some experts have flagged a risk in reopening, especially without quarantine in New South Wales and Victoria.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, it’s obviously a risk, so we’re aware of that – but we have worked very closely with the health authorities; they have given us advice that it is safe to start reopening now. So that’s what we’re doing; but I do encourage everyone to keep on following the health guidelines.
DAVID KOCH: Okay, so those people sort of part way through their quarantine at the moment – in Sydney and Melbourne – are they all being let out today? What happens to them?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, it’s actually a matter for the state health authorities to determine what they’re going to do now, but I guess I would encourage those states to have a look at the fact that we now have travellers coming in from overseas who are fully vaccinated, who don’t have to quarantine. So maybe there’s an opportunity for those who are currently going through quarantine to be moved at least into their homes as soon as possible.
DAVID KOCH: Yeah, we had one very emotional passenger land just a while ago; wanting to see his dying mum in Western Australia. That’s the issue though – he can get up to Sydney on the first leg, can’t get the other way because of Australia’s internal border openings and closures. That’s extraordinary! We’re one country and we can’t see each other in different states?
KAREN ANDREWS: Absolutely, I mean it’s a terrible outcome. Look my heart went out to that poor man, and he is one of many in similar circumstances. The fact that there are still borders between our states that are not open…. it is really at the point where you can go from Sydney to LA, but you can’t go from Tweed Heads to Coolangatta. I mean, it’s just a nonsense.
DAVID KOCH: How confident are you that you’ll be able to keep borders open internationally now? For the long term? What would it take to shut them again?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I’m very confident the borders are now open and they will remain open. We have very high levels of vaccination rates – we’ve always said that is going to be key to reopening. We know how to manage the virus. Yes, there will be issues along the way, but we believe they are all manageable. We have a good strong health system here and we have people in Australia who are prepared to do what it takes to make sure that there are a high level of freedoms here. So I’m confident that the international borders will remain open and that we will see in the future, cohorts of skilled workers coming in here; we will see students coming in; we will see our tourists coming back into Australia. So from here, there is no looking back.
DAVID KOCH: Minister, thanks for your time.
KAREN ANDREWS: Pleasure, take care.