Fracturing national plan prompts Qantas to believe overseas travel will open up before domestic

Picture: Shutterstock
Picture: Shutterstock

A fracturing in the national plan to live with COVID-19 could mean Australians have more chance of a Christmas in New York or London than visiting Perth.

Major airline Qantas has backed in the federal government over the phased reopening of international borders by December with country's holding similar vaccination targets to Australia of around 80 per cent later in the year.

The push for the resumption of commercial overseas travel is in despite of a deteriorating national unity between state and territory governments and the Commonwealth about when to ease domestic border restrictions.

Speaking at the release of the airline's bruised results for financial year 2021, Qantas boss Alan Joyce revealed commercial routes to Singapore, Japan, UK and the US could occur before normal flights between Perth and Sydney resume.

"People want to get back to their normal lives," Mr Joyce said.

"I think it would be a terrible shame, if we got to Christmas in New South Wales, you could visit your relatives in London, but can't visit your relatives in Perth.

"Hopefully we don't get there and we can get some consistency with national cabinet pushing through to opening up Australia and us not to be a the hermit nation.

Mr Joyce's weigh-in on the border debate comes after the West Australian government said it would keep borders shut beyond 70 to 80 per cent vaccinations targets to maintain a zero COVID-19 elimination strategy.

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Queensland has also been lumped into the anti-Australia club, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday being slammed by Queensland MP Milton Dick over his "we can't stay in the cave" comments which targeted states unwilling to accept living with the virus.

Mr Morrison responded by saying the national plan would spur on vaccination rates, especially in Queensland and WA which are lagging behind the national average.

"All of us at some point have to be clear that we have to move on and live with this virus," Mr Morrison said during Question Time.

"The national plan is so important and we say to those who are getting vaccinated that when you get vaccinated in phase-C, you will have exemptions, you will be able to do things as [a] vaccinated persons, because you have taken decisions to make sure you are not such a health risk to others."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said the national plan would spur on vaccination rates. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said the national plan would spur on vaccination rates. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese in his first interview after the release of the Doherty Institute modelling in July said, vaccination targets were a "good thing", but the findings of the report should be made public.

The Canberra Times understands Labor's position on the national plan is fraying, in part to the polarising stance of the Queensland and NSW Labor state governments with the Morrison Government.

Labor health spokesman Mark Butler said the reopening has to be supported by adequate testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine systems.

"The critical question here is the extent to which Scott Morrison can guarantee that this end to lockdowns, which we all need, we all desire, is going to be done as safely as possible - not recklessly but safely," he told ABC on Thursday.

Mr Joyce said the use of vaccine passports and changes to quarantine rules are a matter of the federal government to address before the international border is partially opened.

"One of the biggest unknowns is the quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers entering Australia," he said.

"If it's 14 days in a hotel, demand levels will be very low. A shorter period with additional testing and the option to isolate at home will see a lot more people travel."

Qantas on Thursday posted an eye-watering loss of $2.3bn as result of the disruption to the aviation sector over the past 18-months.

The company noted it had a net debt position of $5.9bn at the end 2021 financial year and had lost $16bn in revenue.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 9000 jobs have been shed from the Qantas group, which include budget carrier Jetstar.

The airline also unveiled five A380 planes are likely to be brought back into service next year for the earlier anticipated resumption of long-haul voyages to the US and UK.

Mr Joyce said a further five could be brought back into service by 2024 and two of the aircraft will be retired due to surplus.

Destinations such as Johannesburg, Bali and Manila are likely to resume in 2022, while the travel bubble with New Zealand is expected to resume once trans-Tasman vaccine rates are on parity.

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This story We could have more chance of Christmas in NY than Perth first appeared on The Canberra Times.