- Australia’s borders will not open until 2022, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told The Age ahead of Tuesday’s Federal Budget.
- The Federal Government will focus on renewing skilled migration, which it sees as essential to Australia’s long-term economic recovery.
- But the Federal Government will avoid “moving ahead of the medical advice” by kickstarting migration early, Frydenberg said.
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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has dashed any lingering hopes of renewed international travel or significant migration by the end of the year, saying Australia’s borders are expected to reopen in 2022.
But skilled migrants will be the star of that eventual reopening, with the nation pinning its long-term hopes on a renewed influx of workers.
Speaking to The Age ahead of Tuesday’s Federal Budget, Frydenberg said the international border, which was slammed shut in March last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, will not open in any major capacity until “it’s safe to do so”.
The Federal Government originally forecast Australia’s international border would reopen at the end of October this year, under an assumption the national vaccine rollout would have reached the majority of Australians.
Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison also indicated that vaccinated Australians may be the first cohort permitted to leave the country and return without undergoing 14 days of mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantine.
But successive shocks to the vaccination scheme have pushed the official timeline back, forcing the government to concede the hard border strategy will linger well into next year — even as closed borders cause billions of dollars of damage to the nation’s tourism, education, and events sectors.
Frydenberg said reviving migration to Australia, which flatlined in 2020 and remains suppressed, is a major priority Australia’s continual economic recovery.
The return of skilled migrants to Australia will “play a very important role across the economy,” Frydenberg said.
However, the treasurer indicated that return will be a long time coming.
“We’re not going to compromise public safety, or indeed the economic recovery, by moving ahead of the medical advice,” Frydenberg said.
State governments have called for the Commonwealth to invest in further quarantine facilities, which they say will reduce the strain on state-run systems and allow a significantly greater number of travellers and migrants to enter the country.
But beyond the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, which is capable of housing up to 2,000 travellers a fortnight, the Federal Government has indicated quarantine remains the responsibility of the states.
Frydenberg’s latest statement pins the nation’s medium-term hopes on workers already within Australia, and suggests rising job listings and an overall drop in official unemployment figures will lift the economy.
Yet his pre-budget announcement also makes it clear that renewed skilled migration is an economic necessity, which Australia cannot fare too long without.