PM outlines roadmap for return of domestic, overseas travel

Travel within Australia is set to resume in stages, followed by a trans-Tasman 'travel bubble', and Pacific Island flights.

By Chris C., May 8 2020
PM outlines roadmap for return of domestic, overseas travel

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has outlined the federal government’s plan to get travellers back onto the roads and into the skies, as part of a broader reboot of the economy.

Moving beyond the current ‘minimum domestic network’ provided for essential workers and travellers, general intrastate, interstate and some international travel will resume in stages.

Speaking to the winding back of restrictions, “we cannot allow our fear of going backwards stop us from going forwards," Morrison said at a press conference today.

However, “there is nothing on our radar which would see us opening up (broader) international travel in the foreseeable future,” the PM added, dampening the hopes of travellers planning journeys afar to places like the UK and Europe in the near term.

Closer to home, while the federal government is outlining the stages that would allow broader domestic travel to return, the final decision will ultimately be at the discretion of each state and territory, with some expected to move more quickly than others.

Stage 1: Intrastate travel opens back up

The first step in bringing back some limited leisure and business travel will be people exploring their own state or territory first, with more freedoms than are possible today.

For example, under current state government restrictions, Queenslanders can venture up to 50km from their home for ‘non-essential’ purposes.

From Saturday May 16, that radius will be broadened to 150km for day trips: allowing Brisbane residents to spend a day at the beach on the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast.

Other states would similarly loosen intrastate travel restrictions, but all on their own timetable.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews reaffirmed that “nothing changes tomorrow, nothing changes Sunday. The rules remain in place.”

Andrews tipped that “there will be changes announced Monday,” May 11, adding, “I welcome the commentary from the Prime Minister … and the staggered nature of easing off the rules.”

Stage 2: Some interstate travel resumes

After allowing people to travel within their own state, the next step will be for some interstate travel to resume, being to and from the states and territories that currently impose domestic border restrictions.

While the timing of this again remains at the discretion of each state and territory government, National Cabinet will review the situation every three weeks, and give advice to the states and territories as to when this would best occur.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy cautions that even as restrictions ease for travellers and across the broader community, people should still practice social distancing, and good hygiene like regular handwashing.

If people don’t, “we could lose the battle that we have won so well so far,” Professor Murphy said today, further cautioning that “you only have to look at the nightly news and see what is happening in really good countries with good health systems … where they let this virus get out of control."

Stage 3: all interstate travel resumes, some international travel possible

Once domestic border restrictions are further wound back, the next step opens the gates for all interstate travel to resume as we knew it before, where no states were limiting those who could enter, or requiring them to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Moving to this stage would again be at the advice of National Cabinet but the discretion of each state, and would not be sooner than three weeks after progressing from stage 1 to stage 2, as the advice is being reviewed at that interval.

At this point, some limited international travel may also return, namely to New Zealand, to be followed by some Pacific Island destinations like Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

“When we’re seeing Australians travel from Melbourne to Cairns, (at) about that time, I would expect that – everything being equal – we’d be able to fly from Melbourne to Auckland, or Christchurch,” Morrison said earlier this week.

As with domestic flying, this would be possible without travellers being required to self-isolate at each end of the journey, largely resembling travel as people knew it before, but likely with some form of health checks at the border.

Read: Trans-Tasman travel to resume "as soon as it is safe to do so"

Broader international travel still off-limits, says PM

When asked whether more wide-ranging international travel would effectively be ‘stage 4’ under similar timelines, the Prime Minister said today that “I can’t see that happening any time soon.”

“There is nothing on our radar which would see us opening up international travel in the foreseeable future … and by and large, I’m not aware of (many) countries that are looking at that option at this point.”

Australians with a pressing need to travel internationally have been able to request an exemption from the travel ban, granted only by the Border Force Commissioner in limited circumstances, such as to provide international aid or conduct business in essential industries.

Read: Who is exempt from Australia's international travel ban?

These arrangements will remain in place while that ban stays in effect.

One of very few countries openly considering the broad reopening of its borders is Greece, which the Prime Minister will be monitoring from a distance.

“They (Greece) mentioned that at the meeting we had last night, but they’re still working through that issue, and I wish them well,” Morrison said.

Also read: After coronavirus, airline travel will be vastly different

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1423

Note there was a mention of international students, presumably on charters.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 207

Allow international travel with certain countries first. Allow people to get moving again. Keep 14 day quarantine if necessary. We must not be scared if we have some simple controls in place.

30 Apr 2020

Total posts 14

Good to see a plan from the PM, unfortunately the states have the final say regarding the borders and sometimes they don't see the big picture. Whilst its accepted international travel is way off at least interstate travel will produce tangible benefits for all states, we need the movement of people to install confidence once again.

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 154

Yeah it's unfortunate there's a constitution that stops all power being concentrated in one persons hands


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1423

George I think it is the states who are pushing international students (Tas abs WA) and they probably would prefer it before interstate travel as they can control it more easily. In that sense these states see the bigger picture that Sco-Mo sort of doesn't.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 162

Of course Dictator Dan is holding onto his authoritarian grip

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jun 2017

Total posts 34

What would you like Dan to do differently?

05 Jan 2012

Total posts 7

As Democratically elcteded Dan is entitled to do.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Dec 2011

Total posts 95

The way I read it, Melb to Cairn at the same time as Melb to Auckland. I don't think traders in Cairn and Port Douglas will be happy. I wouldn't be if I was them.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 207

Why? What are they scared of? What is everyone scared of? Stop cowering away. Take simple precautions and get in with life!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 321

What's even dumber is Townsville to Cairns trip would be the same time as Townsville to Melbourne, what are these people thinking, it will be July before I can head up the road to Cairns for a long weekend, despite zero cases currently, the school holidays will be over, the Qld Govt is as stupid as Victoria's, treating people like 5 year olds, what a joke.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Dec 2011

Total posts 95

My point is that they will open air routes to both at the same time. As to State Premiers, they will do as they see fit.

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