A federal ban on Australians leaving the country will be dropped as soon as November under plans to end an extraordinary travel restriction and embrace a “vaccine passport” so travellers can prove they are allowed to cross international borders.
The plan could be announced within days after federal cabinet discussed the changes on Wednesday night in another step toward a travel pass linked to the Australian Immunisation Record that people can download to their phones after being fully vaccinated.
While Australians have been forced to seek permission from the Department of Home Affairs to leave the country during the pandemic, federal ministers want to dismantle the restriction as soon as the vaccination rate reaches 80 per cent of people aged 16 and over.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged last Friday that the international border could open for people leaving states that had reached the 80 per cent target even if other states had not, given that states such as NSW are ahead of others in vaccinations.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan insisted on Wednesday the international border restriction for outbound travellers would be scaled back once the target was reached, naming New Zealand, the Pacific and Singapore as destinations.
“The national plan makes very clear that once we hit that 80 per cent mark then outbound travel – travel by Australians overseas – will take place and also that we can put in place arrangements for inbound travel as well,” he said.
The steady increase in vaccinations suggests NSW and Victoria could reach 80 per cent in November, while Queensland and Western Australia could take until December.
The arrangements for international travel, with a vaccination record linked to passports, are separate from discussions about domestic systems to prove people are vaccinated so they can go to venues such as cafes, restaurants or cinemas.
The domestic systems will link the vaccination record to the QR code apps already in place in the states and territories in the hope the apps can give a visual signal, such as a green tick, when someone who is fully vaccinated enters a venue.