majority want states open by Christmas

Almost one in two Australians say state borders should be opened within a month, and two in three say they should be open by Christmas, new research shows.

Weekly tracking surveys by Newgate Research commissioned by the Travel and Tourism Forum show the increasing shift in public opinion towards open borders.

In the latest survey of 1709 Australian voters, 49 per cent of respondents said borders should be opened up within a month, up from 33 per cent three months ago.

Sixty-five per cent said they wanted interstate travel to be possible by Christmas, and 75 per cent said they supported border openings within three months.

Public support for open borders was strongest in NSW (59 per cent), followed by Victoria (50 per cent), Queensland (44 per cent) and South Australia (40 per cent).

Support for open borders was weakest in Western Australia, where only 27 per cent of respondents said they supported the opening of the border within a month.

The findings come as Australian and New Zealand tourism industry figures called for a nationally co-ordinated approach to borders and management of coronavirus during a web link meeting today.

Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner said attitudes towards border closures had “swung dramatically in the last month or so” in Queensland.

“If (border closures) are extended, almost certainly the Labor Party will lose government,” he said. “Annastacia (Palaszczuk) has a reasonable chance of winning the election now if she opens the border. She’ll lose if they don’t.”

Mr Turner said the health and aviation sectors had markedly different approaches towards risk, but the reality of coronavirus was that it would be “a fact of life for two, three or four years” and the chance of eliminating it globally were “zero”.

Even the standard 14-day quarantine period for the virus did not capture all cases, he said, which was evidence that “you will never get zero risk”.

Qantas Executive Andrew Parker said it was “almost an impossibility to imagine that any state, territory or country is going to be able to have an open economy without some degree of risk”.

South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania were “making risk assessments now about how to live with the virus”, whereas Western Australia seemed to want zero risk, Mr Parker said.

“The fact (South Australia) came out yesterday and said we’re keeping our border with NSW open was really important and encouraging. It wasn’t jumping at shadows,” he said. “If your only real risk arrangement is a hard border, it shows not a lot of confidence in relation to all the other protocols.”

Mr Parker revealed Qantas was working with the Commonwealth on further international repatriation flights, and the airline wanted to use those flights to demonstrate the possibilities of safe international travel, using multiple passenger tests as well as monitoring of waste water on board the aircraft.

He described such measures as a “belt and braces approach” that could possibly obviate the need for hotel quarantine as a mandatory part of international travel.

Auckland International Airport Chief Executive Adrian Littlewood said it was important for western countries to “finally move on from the 1918 pandemic management plan” and look to how Asian countries responded to the SARS outbreak as a model for how to manage future pandemics.

Mr Littlewood said Australia and New Zealand would need to come to a “common understanding of risk management” in order to open the border, and “all epidemiological models should be transparent and open” to restore confidence for the industry as well as travellers.

Travel and Tourism Forum CEO Margy Osmond said it was time for governments “to start managing the risk, not the emergency”.

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