Monday, 22 March 2021

PM must stop making trans-Tasman travel harder than it needs to be

“For some reason the Prime Minister is trying to talk down expectations of substantive movement on quarantine free trans-Tasman travel at Cabinet today, when she’s got every reason to be talking it up,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“First, the Prime Minister must stop talking about Australians like they’re aliens from another planet.

“They’ve been living with COVID too and moving across state borders with a range of protocols and special requirements for months now – they know what’s expected of them.

“Yet the Prime Minister keeps throwing up straw men to downplay expectations.

“For example, she’s suggesting contact tracing Australian visitors could be more difficult than it is New Zealanders.

“Why would Cabinet need to consider whether the NZ COVID Tracer app’s use should be mandatory for Australians when – despite ACT saying it should be – it’s not mandatory for New Zealanders?

“If she believes her Director General of Health’s repeated statements that our contact tracing is of a very high standard then there’s every reason to believe outbreaks can be rapidly contained.

“What the Prime Minister doesn’t seem to grasp is Australians are used to following COVID-19 specific protocols like app use when travelling or moving around their own states.

“She needs to bear in mind that while they’ve been doing this the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Tasmania have had no community transmission for over 220 days (the ACT nearly 260).

“South Australia hasn’t had an outbreak for three months, Western Australia over two months and even Victoria is getting on for a month. Most importantly, all recent community cases have been contained and wiped out in a matter of days.

“Australians have been progressively moving between their states since late last year, which is when they should have been allowed to travel here quarantine free. 

“After all, it was on 16 October last year that Australia welcomed New Zealanders to travel there with no requirement to quarantine so long as there hadn’t been community outbreak here for 14 days.

“Then there’s the seemingly endless playing for time by saying airports and airlines need time to ramp up, as if they’re somehow the problem.

“Airports and airlines are meticulous planners.

“Airports have been ready for months with protocols in place to separate domestic and international travellers.

“Let’s run through a little timeline.

“On 3 August Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood outlined the work going on at his facility to create safe travel zones, and there was similar work going on at the same time at Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown Airports.

“In October they were ready and Mr Littlewood tried to nudge things along, telling the NZ Herald, ‘from a people and trade point of view we can’t stay hermetically sealed from the rest of the world.’

“In December Mr Littlewood said of quarantine free trans-Tasman travel to Simply Flying ‘In anticipation of this happening, we’re ready.’

“Then Christchurch Airport couldn’t have made it any clearer last week when they said they’d been ‘safe and ready for such a bubble since last October.’

“Stop looking for reasons not to do things Prime Minister.

“As ACT has been counselling since last August, we must have a risk proportionate response to tackling COVID-19.

“If the Prime Minister doesn’t think we can handle a risk that appears minimal then she can’t have confidence in our systems.

“If she doesn’t have confidence in our systems, she must reveal what’s leading to that lack of confidence and bring in the experts who can quickly roll out a fix.

“The world is stealing a march on New Zealand and every day that it does harms New Zealanders’ wellbeing.”