Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has hinted that visa-holders who tend to live in Australia for business and work purposes could be allowed to come next while the borders remain shut until next year.
Speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Senator Birmingham said Australian borders are likely to stay shut until next year.
- Other visa-holders likely to be allowed to return before tourists.
- Government has extended travel ban to September 17, 2020.
- International students to return in July through a pilot program.
In the shorter term though, Australia could 'easily' allow international students and other visa holders, prepared to undergo quarantine, he said.
“It is a certain logic that extends to say that international students and other categories of visitors to Australia who stay here for a longer period of time can more easily be accommodated because we can simply work through the 14-day quarantine periods that have worked so well in terms of returning Australians to this country safely,” Senator Birmingham told the National Press Club.
Though no timeframe was provided on when temporary visa-holders may be allowed to return to Australia.
“Those who might not only be international students but be here for longer-term work purposes or longer-term business and investment purposes, logically you can extend those sorts of same safeguards to them and their state,” Senator Birmingham added.
“In terms of other countries and how we look at shorter-term visitation, that becomes much more challenging once you move beyond New Zealand but not impossible.
“I hope that we can look eventually at some of those countries who have similar successes in suppressing the spread of COVID to Australia and New Zealand, and in working through that with those countries, find safe pathways to deal with essential business travel that helps to contribute to jobs across our economies.
“But I do, sadly, think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off, just because of the practicalities of the volumes that are involved and the need for us to first and foremost keep putting health first.”
When asked if the international border would reopen next year rather than this year, Senator Birmingham said: “Honestly, I think that is more likely the case.”
The indication has come as a ‘ray of hope’ to many visa holders stuck overseas.
Divya Menon, who is on student dependent visa, travelled to Mumbai in February to prepare and appear for her final dentistry exam.
“I was scheduled to return after my exam in May but they shut down the borders. I haven’t seen my husband in four months and I don’t know how long it will be before we are together again,” she told SBS Hindi.
She says she applied for an exemption from the travel ban twice and was rejected both times.
“The first time I applied, when I was severely depressed and desperate to return, I was rejected in 15 mins after I put in my application,” she says.
Wednesday’s indication from Senator Birmingham has come as a ‘ray of hope’ for her.
“My only plea to the government is to allow us to return. I am happy to pay for my quarantine cost and fulfil other requirements. But this uncertainty is extremely stressful.
“My husband, who is a medical student and is working at the North Shore Hospital has experienced severe stress working in the hospital. He has no family around.
“We have been in Australia for 2.5 years now and have a house, a job and have paid taxes. It is only fair to allow us to return,” she says.
Queensland to charge international arrivals for their 14-day hotel quarantine
From July 1, 2020, people arriving in Queensland from overseas will be charged fees for quarantining in government arranged accommodation, the state government has announced.
One adult will have to fork out $2,800 while a pair will need to pay $3,700 for the 14-day stay.
A family of up to four will be charged $4,600 if they are sharing the same hotel room and the amount goes up to $7,875 dollars for three adults and three children in two rooms.
“The fees are proposed to reduce the financial burden of COVID-19 prevention measures on taxpayers,” the state government said.
To date, the Queensland Government has spent more than $19 million accommodating international arrivals and the figure is projected to surpass $24 million by June 30.
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