CANBERRA, AAP – International travel could resume from as early as November with Scott Morrison poised to reveal the flight plan for scrapping border closures.
The prime minister will hold a news conference on Friday morning when an announcement on overseas travel restrictions is expected.
Federal, state and territory governments have agreed to a plan which includes lifting all restrictions on outbound travel for vaccinated Australians when 80 per cent double-dose coverage is reached.
The plan also seeks to abolish international arrival caps on returning vaccinated Australians.
More than 45,000 people are stuck overseas waiting to come home with the NSW government indicating it wants to welcome thousands into the country when borders reopen.
Senior cabinet minister Simon Birmingham said there would be careful steps towards reopening international borders.
“There will be a cautious and staged approach,” he told Sky News.
“What we want to see in relation to international borders is that we ultimately get to a stage where people can move once again freely with confidence around the world.”
Australia’s border slammed shut in March last year as coronavirus spread like wildfire around the world and cases rose domestically.
Premiers in largely coronavirus-free states including Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland have signalled a cautious approach to opening internal borders.
Senator Birmingham acknowledged states would reach high vaccination rates at different stages.
“It may be those states, NSW being the most likely to get to the 80 per cent double-dose vaccination rate first, become then the first test bed for that reopening of international borders,” the finance minister said.
Mr Morrison is expected to address media before a national cabinet meeting with state premiers and territory chief ministers.
It is understood the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee will recommend mandatory vaccination for all health workers to leaders.
The AHPPC will also provide advice on only allowing vaccinated people to visit aged care facilities, as will be the case in NSW from October 11.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said Flight Centre’s threat of a legal challenge to state border closures was a reasonable position to take.
“When do you open up? At 90 per cent, 100 per cent?” he told the Nine Network.
“The fact is we are not going to get to those levels. We are seeing other countries live with this.”
Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles warned the government’s decision to stop business and worker support at 80 per cent coverage could leave people behind.
“Obviously, any business which relies on the international border being open, anything to do with tourism, they are not back to normal,” he said.
“It is really important that we have support which enables people to get to the other side, because they have got good, profitable businesses that can work.”