Australia’s catastrophic unemployment crisis is worsened by states and territories that refuse to reopen their borders – a stubbornness costing 5000 jobs a week and $84 million a day.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison today confirmed the sobering news that an additional 227,000 people lost their jobs in May, bringing the total number of out-of-work Aussies due to coronavirus to more than 830,000.
The losses were particularly savage among young workers, with the youth unemployment rate skyrocketing from two per cent to 16 per cent – the worst result in 23 years.
Mr Morrison pointed out that the latest dire result was from the period just before COVID-19 restrictions began to ease and the economy began to restart.
That’s why “we need Australia open”, the PM told reporters in Canberra.
“Every state government, every territory government, the federal government, local governments, all of us must do everything we can to open up our economy and get Australians back into work,” he said of the continuing state border closures.
Mr Morrison added that “health advice on (border closures) is clear, and if we want to get Australians back into jobs, then we need Australia open.”
Chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy has continually insisted that there’s no good health reason for states and territories to keep their borders shut.
But Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania are holding firm, refusing to set a concrete timeline for reopening their jurisdictions despite the significant economic consequences.
The Northern Territory announced this afternoon that its restrictions will end in four weeks, while South Australia is also wrapping up its closure – but only to a handful of states.
Speaking on radio this morning, Mr Morrison said state borders should never have closed in the first.
“That’s why this is so frustrating,” he told 2GB Radio’s Ben Fordham. “Businesses should be able to open and employ people.”
New economic figures released today show the border closures are costing the economy $84 million a day and causing an estimated 5000 jobs to be shed every week.
“This is why I’ve been pushing the states so hard and this is why borders should be opened up,” Mr Morrison told 2GB.
A number of flailing sectors, particularly the tourism sector, are haemorrhaging jobs due to the COVID-19 downturn and the added pressure of restrictions on interstate movements.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has tentatively indicated a date of July 10 for reopening the borders, but hinted it could change if there’s a spike in new infections.
Today, in the wake of the jobless figures, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced border restrictions would end on July 17, with mandatory quarantine no longer required from that date.
South Australia yesterday said it would ease its border restrictions, allowing travellers from the NT, Tasmania and WA to enter without the need for mandatory quarantining – but excluded NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
International travel is unlikely to resume until 2021, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham revealed on Wednesday, and so Australians are being encouraged to holiday at home.
But that prospect remains difficult, with options severely limited due to holdout states.
Meanwhile, Mr Morrison said a number of ideas are being considered for some arrivals into Australia from overseas – particularly international students, which are economically crucial.
“When it comes to facilitating the ability of people to move in and out of Australia, involved in important employment or work or investment, or whether it is students or others … these are very practical issues that go to the opening of the economy,” he said.
“I can tell you, we are fully immersed in all of these decisions. That is why the government is working night and day.
“My job is to get Australians back into jobs. That is my pledge. I’ve done it before and I will do it again.”