Idiotic politicians, open the bloody borders and let planes fly
When Dad bought me a joy ride on a light plane for my ninth birthday, becoming a pilot was my sole vocational obsession.
Of course, my grades ended that, and as my mathematics and physics marks plummeted, the English essays were okay and journalism beckoned.
For many Aussies, the fascination of flying is real. Qantas is possibly our most iconic brand.
We're wedded to the Flying Kangaroo. But right now in Australia, we are seeing the strangulation of our airline industry by clueless, power-hungry politicians.
Good people like pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers and ground staff are destined to be lost to the industry forever because idiotic politicians, with no real life experience, are consigning them to the unemployment queue.
Open the bloody country up! We're a big nation, so aviation is important. It's the lifeblood that connects us. Catching flights is the price we must pay to satisfy our business and personal lifestyle. Last week, as part of covering the Queensland state election, and after a six month sabbatical due to COVID-19, I caught six flights in five days. It reminded me of just how important aviation is to this country and why it's one of the most vital components of the nation's post-pandemic renaissance.
Last week, the Business Council of Australia urged the borders to be reopened in Australia by Christmas as it revealed the true extent of the impact on our aviation sector.
Australia is losing $319m a day in domestic and international air travel, according to the Business Council of Australia analysis. Every day flights are grounded, it costs Australia $69m or $2.1bn a month. Travel between Australia's busiest routes - particularly Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne - has dropped by 91 per cent since March. Qantas has had to shed about 90 per cent of its workforce, as has Virgin. With JobKeeper running out in March, aviation needs to be leading our post-COVID economic renaissance. Yet borders remain shut as politicians use dodgy medical advice to get their way. I'm assuming it's dodgy. They won't release it publicly so that's the only assumption to be made.
It was refreshing to see how packed the Brisbane-Cairns route was, now said to be the busiest in Australia as south-east Queenslanders clamour for a holiday in the northern tropics. The Rockhampton - Brisbane leg was also jam packed, suggesting a flourishing fly in fly out trade going on.
Opening up international bubbles with New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and China is the next step, says the BCA. This can only happen with a seismic shift in the attitude of some state and territory leaders. The decline of the aviation industry is a national crisis and the best way to fix it is to unshackle the border closures. What that requires is political courage.
Unfortunately, we're not seeing that right now from governments in Queensland and Western Australia. The World Health Organisation and the nation's top medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, say there is no reason to keep borders closed. Our states must adopt the pandemic suppression model, not eradication, to help sectors like aviation back onto its feet. Trusting the tracing principles and the likelihood of a vaccine next year are the keys to getting the economy humming again. This stupid, crazy decision-making around harsh lockdowns and border restrictions is an abrogation of true political leadership.
Protecting people from the virus is sound, but stopping economic catastrophe is just as important.
Where's the trust? Where's the optimism?
Airports are now deploying strict social distancing, and hardline protocols apply at security points, with body scanning now mandatory.
Temperature checks were not deployed and maybe that's something that should be investigated.
There is emerging technology where coronavirus testing can be done and the results detected within 20 minutes. Yes, it's time consuming and costly. But with Qantas and Virgin employing about 10 per cent of their normal staff, the cost of not doing this is unthinkable.
It's time for politicians milking this pandemic for political gain to get out of the way and let Australia come back to a semblance of normality. How can NSW welcome the Indian cricket team and Queensland give them the cold shoulder?
Here's what BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said last week:
"I think the domestic border closures, particularly the one between New South Wales and Queensland ... doesn't stack up with the evidence. And what New South Wales has demonstrated is that you can do local containment really effectively.
"And in doing so, they've unleashed 360,000 jobs that have been replaced. So, what we want to see is national Cabinet, by Christmas, open those domestic borders.
"That's a $3bn gift, Christmas present, to Australians. That's tens of thousands of jobs. And focus on that local containment that's been done so well in New South Wales.''
Westacott is the most apolitical business leader in the country.
She calls it how it is. The current border bans are ridiculous and an insult to our intelligence. National Cabinet following through on its in-principle agreement and opening up the borders and letting those planes loose again is the best Christmas present imaginable for our embattled business and tourism sectors.
Originally published as Idiotic politicians, open the bloody borders and let planes fly