‘National reopening’ talk shut down by PM’s plane delays
A National Cabinet meeting intended to discuss a 'national reopening' and repatriating Australians stranded overseas has been dramatically derailed after Prime Minister Scott Morrison's RAAF jet suffered technical difficulties while in Cairns.
A lack of a secure line stringent enough for national security purposes for the high-level talks between the Prime Minister and the state Premiers has meant meeting could not safely proceed.
It is understood Mr Morrison had been planning to use the trans-Tasman travel bubble to encourage states to open up borders if possible, while special repatriation flights for thousands of vulnerable Australians stranded overseas was also on the agenda.
The Prime Minister's office confirmed the fortnightly meeting with the Premiers had been delayed until next week due to technical difficulties which prevented Mr Morrison's return to Sydney.
It is understood that the issues are to do with the RAAF plane, and the PM's program had not been able to be adjusted around it.
The RAAF just in question is said not to be the $250 million newest acquisition, the 100-seat jet dubbed 'Shark One' by the Prime Minister, but one of the smaller craft.
It was not known last night how long the delay would last.
An announcement on repatriation flights, which would land in the Northern Territory and see citizens quarantine at the Howard Springs facility, had been expected as early as today. It is not known if this has been impacted by the delay.
Prior to the technical difficulties, Mr Morrison said "extensive preparations" had been made for the flights and the planning was in its final stages.
"We've been working now for some months as we've been getting more and more Australians home, particularly those in vulnerable situations," he said.
It's understood passengers arriving from Britain and India will be on the flights. There has been speculation that up two eight flights would be arranged, but government sources said the details had yet to be finalised.
There are about 26,000 Australians stranded overseas, including about 3000 in vulnerable situations.
International arrival caps were lifted from 4000 to 6000 a week nationally in September, including doubling to 1000 arrivals in Queensland.
With one-way travel from New Zealand to NSW and the Northern Territory to begin today, Mr Morrison was also expected to use the trans-Tasman travel bubble to encourage states to open up borders if possible.
The Federal Government is responsible for international borders and has made it clear states have to sign up to the national definition of a hotspot to participate in the one-way travel bubble.
Mr Morrison said the national hotspot definition, developed by acting Chief Medical Officer and epidemiologist professor Paul Kelly, was a three-day average of 10 cases or more.
"The Chief Health Officer here in Queensland has a different view to that and they have a more stringent definition," he said.
Queensland requires a state to have had 28 days without any community transmission.
"You've got to have realistic goals," Mr Morrison said.
"A national hotspot definition, which I think balances the economic and the health interests is what is needed."
New Zealand has yet to sign up to a full travel bubble, meaning Australians and New Zealanders heading back across the Tasman must quarantine for two weeks and pay a $3100 hotel fee on arrival.
Originally published as 'National reopening' talk shut down by PM's plane delays