Palmer, CCI slam McGowan's WA border call

WA Premier Mark McGowan says there's no point in pursuing a travel bubble with the NT or SA.
WA Premier Mark McGowan says there's no point in pursuing a travel bubble with the NT or SA.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has been accused of "protectionism" after he claimed reopening the borders to South Australia and the Northern Territory would provide no economic benefit.

With other states and territories beginning to reopen their borders, WA remains isolated in its refusal to subscribe to a targeted COVID-19 "hotspots" regime.

WA's borders have been closed to anyone except designated workers and people exempted on compassionate grounds for almost six months.

Like WA, SA and the NT have managed to stamp out community transmission and have had low coronavirus case numbers.

But Mr McGowan says there is no point in pursuing a travel bubble.

"There is no benefit," he said on Thursday.

"All we'll do is lose jobs were we to open to those (jurisdictions).

"The other states want us to open the border so that West Australian tourists will flood east, not so that people from the east will come here.

"They're only saying all this for very self-interested reasons because we have higher incomes, we have people that are more used to travelling and therefore we'll have more tourists go from Western Australia to the east."

The comments have frustrated industry groups, which have called on the McGowan government to provide certainty on the easing of border restrictions.

"The West Australian business community expects that decisions regarding the removal of border restrictions will be made solely on health advice, not on the basis of economic protectionism," Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief executive Chris Rodwell said.

Billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer, whose constitutional challenge of WA's border closures will be heard by the High Court next month, said it was a stunning admission from the premier.

"I have always maintained that Mark McGowan closed the borders for economic reasons. He wants to separate WA from the rest of Australia,'' Mr Palmer said.

"WA is persisting with its hard borders yet it has the second highest number of growing cases behind Victoria.

"I'm confident that when this issue gets to the High Court, the borders will be opened so we can trade between states again and get the Australian economy moving."

Mr McGowan later sought to clarify his comments.

"Everything we have done has been on the grounds of health to protect West Australians," he said.

The premier remains adamant the borders won't come down until the eastern states go 28 days with no community spread.

He highlighted reports that passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise ship may have infected up to 11 people on a flight from Sydney to Perth, labelling it a "significant policy failure" by the NSW government.

"If only they'd been more careful, we wouldn't have had some of those cases come to our state," he said.

Opposition Leader Liza Harvey urged the premier to outline a pathway out of the border restrictions which were causing family separations and business uncertainty.

"That's having a massive impact on the mental health of Western Australians," she said.

Australian Associated Press