Queensland is coming under increasing pressure to reopen its borders as the federal government talks up the prospects of a “travel bubble” across the Tasman.
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said he would not allow fortified states to become an obstacle to the deal.
“New Zealand is obviously the first, and right now only, international market that we could safely agree to open up to,” he told Nine newspapers on Monday.
“If New Zealand and some Australian states are ready and willing to progress, then the reluctance of other states to open up their domestic borders shouldn’t become an obstacle to progress.”
But apart from Victoria and the ACT, all other states and territories are maintaining a hardline approach, fearing a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Later, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “it matters” whether New Zealanders were able to move around Australia freely.
“The states haven’t opened up to each other yet,” she told Radio New Zealand.
“Obviously I would expect to see some of those issues resolved before we’d see them necessarily opening up to New Zealand – and you can understand why.
“People want to be able to travel internally in Australia before they’d expect to be able to come across the ditch.”
While border controls might take some time to relax, Ms Ardern said work on the trans-Tasman bubble was continuing.
“We have officials working on the practicalities of what on the ground, what managing the border, a trans-Tasman bubble would look like and how it would work in practice,” she said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said she will consider lifting travel restrictions at the end of May, but warned the state’s borders could be shut until September.
Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers said the sunshine state had been a success story in containing the virus.
“It’s come from the Premier making difficult decisions based on the firm advice of the medical community,” the Queenslander told ABC radio.
“I think all of us want to see the borders safely reopened … something like every 10th job in my home state relies in one way or another on tourism.”