Businesses in South Australia and the Northern Territory are pushing to reopen state borders with a “centre-west travel triangle” that includes Western Australia – but pointedly excludes the eastern states.
Business SA and the Chamber of Commerce NT say closed borders due to the coronavirus pandemic are costing millions in lost tourism dollars and putting thousands of jobs in jeopardy.
Business SA chief Martin Haese said the united call was about keeping businesses in central and western Australia alive.
“While we understand the need to protect South Australians from the further spread of COVID-19, the best opportunity to open our borders is with those states and territories that have flattened the curve,” he said.
Neither the NT or SA have any active coronavirus cases. Western Australia had 28 on Thursday, but most of those were among crew from a live animal transport ship that arrived in Fremantle in late May – and no new cases were reported on Thursday.
By contrast, Victoria reported eight coronavirus cases on Thursday, including one in a protester from Saturday’s Black Lives Matter rally. That positive test has sparked fears of a potential second wave of COVID-19 infections in the state.
Queensland had one new confirmed case on Thursday, while NSW had none.
Victoria and NSW have not closed their borders during the pandemic.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has copped the brunt of criticism for a hardline approach on her state’s border, maintaining it could be shut until as late as September. Queensland faces a High Court challenge on the closure.
The business groups said about 240,000 people travelled from WA to SA every year, injecting $266 million into the South Australian economy.
Northern Territorians contribute $88 million a year, with about 78,000 visitors.
Chamber of Commerce NT chief Greg Ireland said domestic spending was at an all-time low, directly affecting revenue for local businesses.
“Without increased volume from interstate visitation, many Territory businesses will be pushed to breaking point,” he said.
“Typically, the Northern Territory receives more than one million interstate visitors, who provide a substantial contribution to our economy.”
Mr Haese encouraged SA Premier Steven Marshall to prioritise the centre-west travel triangle, saying it would deliver more than three times the economic benefit of another possible “bubble” with the ACT and Tasmania.
“With the NT and WA borders neighbouring SA, this opens the opportunity for the state to capitalise on the self-drive market with easy access into our regions,” he said.
Mr Marshall said the state’s transition committee was discussing the possibility of reopening borders. An announcement would be made on Friday.
“Some of those restrictions we’re looking at lifting could include borders,” he told the Seven Network’s Sunrise on Thursday.
“We’ve done particularly well here because we closed our borders and … I know other states and territories are improving significantly.
“They won’t be lifting all of the borders but there might be a two-stage approach where we go with some jurisdictions in the shorter term, then still continue to monitor other states, then continue to lift them as soon as it’s possible.”