Most Australians back their nation’s policy of keeping the international border closed during the COVID pandemic despite pushes from business groups and some government MPs to restart overseas travel.
A Newspoll published in national broadsheet The Australian Monday shows 73 percent of voters support the suggestion that Australia’s federal government should keep international borders closed until at least the middle of next year or until the pandemic is brought under control globally.
The potential timeline was revealed in budget forecasts released May 11 and prompted national carrier Qantas to push back plans to restart long-haul international flying from October 31 to December 20.
Australia currently has a travel bubble permitting quarantine-free travel with neighboring New Zealand but restricts travel to the rest of the world.
The new poll comes amid arguments by lobbyists such as the Australian Industry Group’s Innes Willox that keeping the border shut to overseas travelers will be economically damaging.
Some medical experts have also warned that Australia cannot shun international tourists indefinitely and that the chances of eradicating the virus globally are “highly improbable”.
Surprisingly, support to keep the border closed until the middle of next year was strongest among the government’s own supports, with 78 percent of coalition voters agreeing with the proposition compared to 71 percent of Labor supporters.
Women also favored the proposition more than men but the highest support amongst any demographic — 81 percent — was from older voters aged 50+.
Responding to the figures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated the government’s stance that the border closures would remain “as long as is necessary to keep Australians safe and our economy safe”.
The survey of 1506 respondents was conducted between May 13 and May 16 as debate in Australia raged about repatriation flights from India.
The Australian government suspended air services from India last month due to the COVID outbreak but resumed repatriation flights late last week.
However, the first flight landed in Darwin on Saturday with just 80 of its 150 scheduled passengers after 42 tested positive to COVID prior to boarding and 31 of their close contacts were also prevented from flying.
Qantas has launched an inquiry into its testing regime after several people denied boarding on the because they tested positive for COVID subsequently tested negative.