The first week of Dominic Perrottet’s tenure as NSW prime minister has been characterized by a series of bombshell announcements that include sweeping changes to the previously planned roadmap, apart from the pandemic. On October 15, the state’s rookie leader made arguably the most explosive announcement to date. Perrottet said at a 10am press conference with no advance warning to the transport or airline industries that NSW is in Australia. reopening its borders to the world and fully vaccinated arrivals will not need to be quarantined on arrival.
News that international tourism will resume in a few weeks has “blind” international airlines, which are now scrambling to relaunch routes to Sydney. According to a report from guard6,000 additional seats will be available within 48 hours, but many airlines remain in the dark about what special logistics must be done to make Perrottet’s plan work. An anonymous airline source told the Guardian: “We were surprised by this. We had zero consultation that this happened today. There is no official direction for us.”
There is also some debate over whether Perrottet has the authority to reopen international borders. While the vast majority of social restrictions during the pandemic were at the discretion of state prime ministers, control of Australia’s international border remained with the federal government. While Scott Morrison announced that international travel could resume from November, Perrottet was evasive during his press briefing, refusing to confirm whether the Prime Minister had truly given NSW the green light to announce such a major change to the status quo. It’s also unclear whether Perrottet agrees on how to issue international visas, which is a matter for the federal government.
There are also potential repercussions for the fate of interstate travel in Australia. Reopening to the rest of the world could be a red flag for other states and territories, particularly Tasmania and Western Australia, where a full containment strategy is still in place. With foreign arrivals potentially importing new variants and undetected cases, state borders may remain closed to NSW long after the international border reopens.