In today’s media conference the Australian PM has hinted at trans-Tasman flights between Covid-free areas of Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking at a media briefing today, Scott Morrison said almost 4000 Australians were returning home every week, but many more were still trying to do so.

“Further support has been provided to assist those Australians, particularly in hardship overseas … as part of that approach I spoke to Prime Minister Ardern this morning and what I advised her was that Australia will be looking to apply the same hotspot approach to New Zealand.

“That means when we’re in a position to do so, and when the acting chief medical officer has come to a set of arrangements with New Zealand, then we would be able to have New Zealanders come to Australia.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to Scott Morrison this morning. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to Scott Morrison this morning. Photo / Mark Mitchell

“That doesn’t mean Australians can go to New Zealand, that’s a matter for Prime Minister Ardern, but if there’s no Covid in Christchurch, and there’s no Covid in Queensland, then there’s no reason both of them can’t come to Sydney.

“That will mean, I think, an important boost for our tourist economy, whether it’s in New South Wales or anywhere else.”

He spoke about allowing visiting New Zealanders to enter without having to go into isolation or quarantine.

“The idea that New Zealanders would not have to go into quarantine because they’re coming from Covid-free areas would also free up places in quarantine. Equally, if states aren’t requiring Australians coming from areas where there is no Covid cases, like the ACT, and that they don’t have to go into hotel quarantine in places, well, that obviously frees up more capacity as well.”

He said seven out of eight states and territories had agreed to the “hotspot” plan, which would reduce the need for hard borders between the states.

“The idea of ultimately moving beyond a situation where you have hard borders, but you move to a situation where you can have a workable hot spot concept, then that is something we are going to give it our best possible go to define and to make work.

“States, of course, will reserve ultimately the decisions they take, but all of those who have committed to this path have agreed that we should work hard to get that in its best possible form.”

South Australia had joined New South Wales and Victoria’s premiers’ stance and were “very keen to get their border down as soon as it’s safe to do so”, he said. Tasmania also had a goal of taking down its border by December.

Western Australia was the hold-out on an agreement.

“Western Australia has set out some very specific circumstances in their state as to why they won’t be joining that aspiration at this time. That said, they wish us well, and they will participate in that process, where they’ve got things they believe that they can offer,” Morrison said.

“Western Australia has a very different border and a very different economy than most of the other states and territories where these decisions have been made.

“There are not large border towns. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, there are virtually none along the Western Australian border. Their economy is of a much greater scale than the South Australian and the Tasmanian economies.

“So, they will watch carefully, they will look on, and the thing about our new way of working in National Cabinet is the door always remains open. And they are always able to join us at a subsequent time.”

He said other states would be able to move forward without Western Australia.

“I believe there are many things they can offer in that process. So, they are not standing completely separate for that process. They will continue to work with us. But, for them, they have got their path set, and we respect that.

“Not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station. But it is important the bus leaves the station.”

There was also a plan to increase international arrivals into Australia, which had largely been coming through New South Wales.

“We noted that New South Wales has been doing all the heavy lifting on this, and they really are at their capacity for the time being.

“And so, as I discussed with Cabinet during the course of this week, the Transport Minister will be working with others to see if we can get flight that are currently all seeking to come to Sydney, to see if we’re in a position to try and get them to go into other ports, whether that be in Perth, in Adelaide, in Darwin, the ACT, or elsewhere, even Tasmania.”

“These are commercial flights, they’re not flights run by the Australian government … I’d be surprised if they were running at anything other than a massive loss on every single flight.

“To get them to go to places that would enable us to get more Australians back into the country, I think it would be very useful.”