When Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, joined each other in Tuesday’s meeting of our national cabinet, they would have been entitled to exchange cautious congratulations.
Few of us could have imagined weeks ago that the progress of COVID-19 through the two countries’ populations would have been so effectively arrested, and many countries around the world would have paid handsomely to find themselves in the position we occupy now.
As optimism has grown, earlier comments by Ms Ardern’s deputy, Winston Peters, about the possibility of a trans-Tasman “bubble” for holidaymakers have attracted wide attention. Australians and New Zealanders have always been significant contributors to each other’s visitor numbers; at a time of severe economic privation for the tourism industry and the airlines that serve it, they could become a lifeline.
On Tuesday, Mr Morrison cautioned that the “safe travel zone” was still some time away and that it would not precede the easing of curbs on interstate travel. As he put it, once Australians are able to travel from Melbourne to Cairns, it will be possible to consider them travelling to Auckland or Christchurch.