Scott Morrison has warned international travel and border restrictions will remain in place for some time, insisting Australia must “play it safe” in the fight against coronavirus.
Mr Morrison has attracted criticism from business leaders, health officials and some colleagues for refusing to outline a framework on when the country will reopen.
The budget papers predict a mid-2022 deadline but there are no guarantees.
“We’ve got a plan for when we reopen but it’s not safe to do it yet. It will be a gradual process,” Mr Morrison said.
He warned Australia’s relative safety from coronavirus could be compromised if borders reopen too early.
“It’s called rushing to failure,” he told 2GB radio on Wednesday.
“Australians are demonstrating a great deal of patience and the position we have been maintaining is the sensible one.
“That doesn’t mean we’re not planning for when we can do it … but for now and for some time yet we need to play it safe because that’s what protects lives and it’s also what protects livelihoods.”
NSW and Victoria have called for a clear road map on the reopening of international borders.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has cautioned that her state will need to administer another 9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses before considering any relaxation of border restrictions.
That level of uptake would mean most of the adult population will have had the jab.
“In NSW, we know that we need to do at least around 10 million jabs to get the majority of our population vaccinated,” Ms Berejiklian said on Monday.
NSW and Victoria recorded no new cases overnight of community transmission of COVID-19. Two NSW cases and one Victorian case acquired overseas were reported in the same period.