NZ Govt must act unilaterally on travel bubble

The Government should make a unilateral decision to have quarantine-free travel with Australia now that we know talks between the two countries have collapsed, National’s COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

In Parliament on Wednesday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed that after 12 rounds of talks over many months on a common framework, both parties have effectively left the negotiating table.

Mr Hipkins said: “we haven't been able to reach a common understanding for a joint decision-making framework and, therefore, we have to plan based on more of a unilateral decision-making framework when it comes to suspension of the safe-travel zone.”

Mr Bishop says it’s clear the trans-Tasman bubble negotiations are going nowhere under Labour, and it’s time for New Zealand to take action to save our tourism sector.

“Australia has moved and now we need to move as well. We decide when we open our border – the decision is not subcontracted to Australia.

“We could start accepting travellers from Australia, provided they have a negative pre-departure test, from tomorrow – and that’s exactly what we should do.”

Now that cross-country talks have failed, the Government must revert to its back-up plan. If that plan doesn’t involve unilaterally opening the border to Australia then the Government needs to tell desperate tourism businesses exactly what its plan is, Mr Bishop says.

“Let’s be clear; Australia has opened its borders to New Zealand, for the most part, since October and Prime Minister Scott Morrison is happy for the bubble to go ahead right now.

“As Prime Minister Morrison points out, if we want Australian visitors to spend money in our bars, restaurants and tourist towns then we need the bubble. Let’s get on with it.”