Australia will not open the country’s borders “anytime soon”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday, but added the country will continue its discussions with New Zealand for a trans-Tasman safe travel zone.
“I was speaking with Prime Minister Ardern this morning, and we’ll continue to have our discussions about the trans-Tasman safe travel zone,” Morrison told the National Press Club in Canberra, referring to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The PM added that Aussies in Victoria or New South Wales may be able to travel to NZ before some Australian states open up for business.
“It may well be that Sydneysiders can fly to Auckland before they can fly to Perth, or even the Gold Coast, for that matter,” he said.
Meanwhile Morrison said the economy must not become reliant on government stimulus, as Canberra unwinds state support and accelerates plans to spur growth.
Australia has reported just over 7,100 COVID-19 infections, including 102 deaths.
That is well below the equivalent numbers reported by many other developed countries, an achievement the government attributes to tough social distancing rules that have prevented local hospitals from being swamped with coronavirus patients but taken a heavy toll on the economy.
Australia’s government and central bank have pledged more than $250 billion to cushion the economic blow, but Morrison will say the stimulus must come to an end.
“At some point you’ve got to get your economy out of intensive care,” he said.
“You’ve got to get it off the medication before it becomes too accustomed to it.”
The Reserve Bank of Australia expects the economy to shrink by 10% in the first half of this year, marking its first recession in three decades, while unemployment is expected to top 10%.
Economists had expected Canberra would have to borrow about $300 billion to support the economy, though the cost of its centrepiece wage subsidy scheme was last week revised down by $60 billion.
Morrison’s speech said his government is formulating a plan to ignite economic growth that is likely to focus on tax reform and deregulation. Details are expected with the budget in October.
This report has been updated to include the PM’s press conference comments on Australian borders.