New international travel promise

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Australians wanting to travel overseas can mark a date on their calendar after the government made a major promise.

Australians itching to head on an overseas holiday have been assured by the government that international borders will reopen by Christmas at the latest.
Tourism Minister Dan Tehan, who is set to head overseas next week for critical trade talks, made the promise in a virtual address to the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“I do empathise with the Australians who have been denied the opportunity to travel overseas this year,” Mr Tehan said.

“It’s another reason why everyone should get vaccinated and we have to stick to the national plan that will see our international border open up – at this rate by Christmas at the latest.”

Under the national plan, Australians are set to be able to travel internationally once 80 per cent of adults aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated.

However, just where Australians can expect to travel to, remains up in the air.

“People will be able to freely travel outside of Australia, with no restrictions or no limitation … Obviously, it will be dependent on the requirements that are put in place of the countries that they are travelling with,” the minister said.

Australia is currently in negotiations with several countries to establish “travel bubbles” and further trials are underway to implement a home quarantine system for returned travellers.

Mr Tehan said the vaccination certification QR code system has been sent to Australia’s overseas embassies for compatibility checks.

“What we’ve seen so far and all the reports back, is that the QR code system – which has obviously been modelled on the international aviation organisation’s model of what they think is needed in a QR code – seems to be interoperable with most of the countries that we’ve been dealing with,” he said.

“So that when those international borders open and as I said in my speech, hopefully at the latest by Christmas, that Australians will be able to travel with a QR code link to their passport which will be able to show a proof of vaccination.”

Last month, Qantas announced it had scheduled international flights to resume from mid-December, offering bookings to destinations such as London, Fiji and Los Angeles.

The rest of its international network planned to open back up from April next year.

But the industry body which represents international airlines has previously warned Australia still does not have the processes in place to allow for the large-scale recommencement of international travel.

The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia earlier this month said they had received “limited engagement” with the government.

Earlier in the week, Acting Prime Minister – and Transport Minister – Barnaby Joyce also sidestepped questioning around if the government had begun a conversation with the airlines and airports.

“There are discussions that go on continuously with our partners … Qantas they’re not foolish, they’re opening up. They must believe there is a market there to open up into. That’s precisely what we want,” he told reporters on Monday.

Originally published as International border to reopen by Christmas at the latest, Tourism Minister says