Australia’s international borders won’t be opening until mid-2022, the Federal Budget makes clear

  • The Federal Budget confirms Australia’s borders won’t be opening until mid-2022, reaffirming comments made by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday.
  • Australia’s international borders have effectively been closed since March 2020.
  • There are currently more than 34,000 Australians currently situated overseas who wish to return home, and the government has announced further repatriation flights.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Still holding out hope that you’ll be able to jet off to some glitzy international destination before the end of the year? Forget it – because the Federal Budget makes clear that international travel likely won’t be a possibility until mid-2022.

The Budget outlines a set of assumptions which underpin its economic forecasts, and one of those assumptions is that international travel – both coming in and leaving Australia – will remain low until the middle of next year.

“Inbound and outbound international travel is expected to remain low through to mid-2022, after which a gradual recovery in international tourism is assumed to occur,” it reads.

Furthermore, the Budget forecasts that both permanent and temporary migration will return from that time as well, and “small phased programs for international students” will begin at the end of this year and ramp up through 2022.

Australia’s borders have been effectively slammed shut since March last year, when the first COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns were implemented to clamp down on rapidly increasing cases.

There are currently more than 34,000 Australians currently situated overseas who wish to return home, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but are unable to do so due to international arrival caps.

As part of the Budget, the government announced a further 120 facilitated flights to bring some of these citizens home by June 2022, adding to the 127 flights which have brought 18,800 Australians home already.

Mixed border messages

The Budget’s assumption that bi-directional international travel will begin to ramp up in the middle of next year reflects comments Treasurer Josh Frydenberg made on Monday – and contradicts some more confused messaging from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Frydenberg confirmed that borders would open to get economic activity flowing, but that the government would not act against medical advice in doing so.

“We’re not going to compromise public safety, or indeed the economic recovery, by moving ahead of the medical advice,” Frydenberg said.

Frydenberg’s clarifications came after criticism of an interview Scott Morrison gave to The Daily Telegraph over the weekend, where he seemed to suggest that Australia’s border would remain shut indefinitely, in line with community expectations.

In a Facebook post the following day, Morrison said his comments had been “misrepresented” in the story, and that “international borders will only open when it is safe to do so.”

Regardless, for a privileged few, Australia’s borders are more or less open anyway.

Business Insider Australia reported in March that the Morrison government had quietly instructed the Department of Home Affairs to begin prioritising investor visas over other types of applicants, with a view to “help inject additional funds into the Australian economy”.