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Matt Coughlan and Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)
Australia’s tourism and trade minister believes international borders will be open in time for Christmas.
Dan Tehan, who is preparing to jet off for a range of overseas meetings with counterparts, said the nation was on track to lift travel restrictions this year.
“I do empathise with the Australians who have been denied the opportunity to travel overseas this year. It’s another reason why everyone should get vaccinated,” he told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
“We have to stick to the national plan that will see our international border open up – at this rate by Christmas at the latest.”
More than 45,000 Australians are stranded overseas with the figure rising in recent months due to reduced passenger arrival caps.
About 4700 are considered vulnerable.
Mr Tehan said the government was considering travel bubble arrangements with other countries, similar arrangements with New Zealand established earlier this year.
“That will mean there will not be the restrictions on 14-day quarantine that otherwise would be the case for people returning to Australia,” he said.
“What those quarantine arrangements would look like will depend on the negotiations with the travel bubble of the particular country.”
Mr Tehan said he hoped to see home quarantine arrangements established across the country, as a way to speed up a return to eventual overseas travel.
Trials in South Australia have used facial recognition and location technology to ensure people were at home.
“Ultimately we’ve still got a little bit of work to do on that, but that’s basically the plan that we’re look at as we head to that 80 per cent national vaccination rate,” the minister said.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the federal government leaving arrival caps to states and territories was absurd given it was responsible for customs, immigration and borders
“It is terrible that people are stranded. We need to fix it,” he told ABC radio.
He said federally run purpose-built quarantine centres with state support were the answer.
Home quarantine is expected to be in place on a larger scale before quarantine hubs in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth are up and running.
“Get people home, get them to quarantine safely and fix this problem,” Mr Albanese said.
“This is a tragedy for people who are stranded overseas. It’s also a tragedy for people here who want to see their loved ones.”