Scott Morrison has indicated international travel could be back this year – contradicting health department boss Brendan Murphy

Scott Morrison suggests international borders will open this year. Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy disagrees. (SMH, Alex Ellinghausen)

The Prime Minister appears to have broken ranks with his own health officials over the timeline dictating when Australians can travel again.

Speaking from Queensland, Scott Morrison said his government would review the border situation and the health advice related to it “week by week”.

“As we have worked through the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic we have dealt with the information in front of us. We’ve worked with the experts that we have to put in place the best responses,” he said.

“The same will be true when we make decisions over the course of this year – particularly when we get to the other side of vaccines having been introduced in Australia – about what will happen with international borders.”

The suggestion that international travellers could come and go freely before the year is out would seem to contradict the position of Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy.

Just two days prior, the former chief medical officer ruled out the prospect of anything changing before next year.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” Murphy told ABC News Breakfast on Monday.

“We’re going to go as safely and as fast as we can to get our population vaccinated and then we’ll look at what happens.”

While travel bubbles have been pointed at previously with countries like Japan, South Korea and Singapore, none look any closer to manifesting.

Likewise a two-way bubble with New Zealand still hasn’t appeared despite having been on the table for the better part of the year. While across the Tasman, Jacinda Ardern has indicated it may be a matter of a few months, it speaks of the fraught nature of opening borders, any borders, at the moment.

Throw in the fact that state premiers aren’t uniform in their approach to domestic borders, and that the precise vaccine rollout is still unclear, and Morrison’s comments may fly closer to optimism than reality.

Given his government’s stated predisposition to follow the ‘medical advice’, travelling in 2022 may remain a safer bet.