Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Monday, 9 August 2021
Chloe Bouras: Do you think it is likely that other states will open up to New South Wales given the current situation, how long do you imagine borders could be closed for?
Simon Birmingham: The really high rates of transmission of the Delta variant will mean the states will probably keep their borders closed to New South Wales for much of the rest of this year, but as the vaccine program keeps gathering pace and momentum, I'm hopeful we'll see them open up again by Christmas.
Chloe Bouras: Do you think it is likely before Christmas or do you think there will be that sort of Christmas target?
Simon Birmingham: We will have to see, but if Australians keep turning out in record numbers with the millions of extra doses of vaccines coming online over the next few months, people should be optimistic that we will push through this and hopefully be in a position where families can be reunited and people can take a Christmas break again.
Chloe Bouras: The New South Wales government is flagging reducing restrictions on businesses with vaccinated workers despite cases continuing to climb. Is that a good idea?
Simon Birmingham: New South Wales needs to make sure they do everything possible to suppress the Delta variant and make sure they follow the health advice along the way. Now, it is entirely possible in that health advice for them to take the careful, targeted steps, just as other jurisdictions have done before them, but they need to do that in conjunction with the health officials.
Chloe Bouras: By health officials do you mean federal health officials and sticking to the national plan?
Simon Birmingham: Certainly, health officials across the country have had a very collaborative approach right through the COVID-19 pandemic. And New South Wales, I'm sure, will be drawing on the experiences of Victoria as to how they allow certain activities to occur and during their very long period of lockdown last year, but still managed to get on top of COVID-19. The Delta variant poses extra challenges for New South Wales, but to date, they have not reached the same type of caseload as Victoria did, and hopefully they can still get on top of it whilst allowing careful activities that are within the health rules, noting that unlike Victoria they have got a vaccine.
Chloe Bouras: And should Sydneysiders, you know think that they can travel any time soon anyway interstate?
Simon Birmingham: It's a long road to hoe in terms of seeing other states likely to open up to New South Wales, given the real concern the Delta variant poses. But obviously, as the vaccine rollout gathers pace and momentum, hopefully those circumstances change through the course of the year.