WA has refused to come to the party after a “one-way travel bubble” agreement was inked between Australia and New Zealand today.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison finalised a deal with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Arden, paving the way for flights to restart from October 16.
Transport Minister Michael McCormack said health officials had assessed New Zealand as a low risk of transmitting the disease to Australia.
“This is the first stage in what we hope to see as a trans-Tasman bubble between the two countries,” the deputy prime minister told reporters in Canberra.
South Australia is likely to be the next jurisdiction included.
But WA has opted out of participating in the deal.
Asked whether WA would need to lift its hard border before it would be included in the agreement, Mr McCormack said the offer had been put on the table at the last national cabinet meeting and NSW and the Northern Territory put their hands up.
“The opportunity is there, and there’s plenty of businesses, plenty of tourism operators in Western Australia, very much wanting business. They can only have business between West Australians for so long,” Mr McCormack said.
If Western Australia wants to avail themselves of this, they only have to say the word and I’m sure it will be made possible.
“If Western Australia wants to avail themselves of this, they only have to say the word and I’m sure it will be made possible.”
Australians hoping to cross the Tasman will have to wait a little longer, with the New Zealand government not yet satisfied with Australia’s infection rates.
Kiwis will be exempt from quarantine when arriving in Australia, provided they are not in a designated hotspot.
NSW and the NT were included in the bubble after accepting the federal government’s hotspot definition.
That means New Zealanders in places with more than three new cases over three days will be banned from quarantine-free travel to Australia.
It signals intensified pressure on states to bow to the Commonwealth definition, which could also trigger interstate borders reopening.
The government predicts exempting New Zealand arrivals from quarantine will free up 325 hotel quarantine spots a week for returning Australians.
Mr McCormack said if Queensland agreed to the definition, a further 250 weekly spaces would become available.
He said the NT government was keen to see tourists visit the Top End.
“I have just gotten off the phone with chief minister (Michael) Gunner, who says the fish are biting and the beers are cold,” he said.
“He wants to see as many of his New Zealand cousins and friends as possible.”
The Nationals leader is hopeful the bubble will also lead to New Zealander sheep shearers entering the country.
The move could allow Pacific islanders to spend two weeks in New Zealand before coming to Australia to work during this summer’s harvest.
“They can come and pick fruit, sheer our sheep, fall in love,” Mr McCormack said.