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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Potential ACT-SA travel bubble could open this week

[For an update to this story, read: Bubble burst: SA Premier delays ACT-SA travel bubble]

Canberrans could be jet setting to Adelaide to head out to the Barossa for a wine tour or catch AFL football at the Adelaide Oval as soon as this weekend, with discussions on a possible ACT-SA travel bubble well under way.

Commonwealth Senator for the ACT Zed Seselja said he has had “pretty productive conversations” with South Australian Premier Steven Marshall on the possibility of an ACT-SA travel bubble.

“Steven (Marshall) was very aware of the very low numbers in Canberra. We haven’t had any new cases for quite some time now and that is very much within our favour,” Senator Seselja said.

“It could be soon, I think if a decision is taken, possibly tomorrow … If a decision were taken in the coming days, I think it could happen very quickly if not immediately.”

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr told ABC Radio Canberra today that establishing an ACT-SA travel bubble has hinged on “giving them a level of comfort in relation to how the ACT might manage an ACT specific arrangement given their discomfort with NSW”.

“The only reason we don’t have a travel bubble at the moment with Adelaide is their concern with NSW,” he said.

With talks also taking place to establish a similar arrangement with Tasmania, Mr Barr said the SA discussion is “the most advanced”.

SA already has open borders with Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania.

A South Australian Government spokesperson told Canberra Weekly their Transition Committee – which makes decisions regarding the opening up of borders, based on the advice of SA Health – meet tomorrow, as well as National Cabinet.

“We won’t be pre-empting any of those discussions today, but … SA are looking at the ACT very closely,” they said.

Mr Marshall yesterday said his state doesn’t “want to keep our borders shut for a day longer than we need to”.

“We see the ACT continuing to do extraordinarily well, and even NSW,” he said.

Senator Seselja said his preference would be for SA borders to open to both the ACT and NSW, but that a strictly ACT-SA bubble would be workable too.

“I did make the point … even if they baulk in the coming days at opening up to NSW, that it is safe, and it is possible to do it between Canberra and South Australia.

“In the absence of a decision in relation to NSW, I don’t want Canberra to be held back and treated as just a part of NSW … we could make this work.”

Senator Seselja said an ACT-SA bubble, in the absence of NSW inclusion, would be workable by conducting drivers licence or ID checks at Canberra Airport.

“If it were just the ACT then the airlines would make it clear that you can’t get on that flight unless you’re a Canberra resident,” Senator Seselja said.

“I think all of that is very feasible and I think some of the concerns around that … have been a bit overstated.”

Canberra Airport head of aviation Michael Thomson said opening travel between Canberra and South Australia would be a good “incremental” step to restarting tourism in both jurisdictions.

“We believe from a health perspective this is a manageable risk as it’s been almost two months since the ACT recorded a new COVID-19 case and South Australia has had very low levels of infection,” he said.

“There is significant demand for flights from business in ACT and South Australia, and there is also significant tourism demand and a strong desire to visit friends and relatives in our two regions.”

Canberra Airport previously approached the Queensland and SA governments in July, asking for a new “travel bubble” to be created between the ACT and the two states.

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