Winston Peters digs in on trans-Tasman bubble: 'No reason at all for us not to have started it'

Winston Peters believes a trans-Tasman travel bubble should be in place by now and says there is "no reason at all for us not to have started it" state-by-state. 

The Deputy Prime Minister acknowledged New Zealand is dependent on Australia being ready for the move, but told Magic Talk arrangements for Kiwis to travel state-by-state should have happened "yesterday". 

"Rather than being confined or constrained by the states that are not succeeding with COVID-19, why don't we just deal with Tasmania for example and Queensland, and start there?" Peters suggested. 

"If we do, it'll set a serious precedent. We should have started that, as I said, yesterday. There is no reason at all for us not to have started it."

Even though there are no direct flights from New Zealand to Tasmania, Peters said he's confident Kiwis would be keen to visit, and said he's spoken with Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein about the possibility.  

"In this start-up experience what's critical is that Tasmania's successful when it comes to COVID-19 and I think we've got to start somewhere, so why not?" Peter said. "We need to get started now."

Australia still has more than 400 active cases of COVID-19, with the majority of confirmed cases and deaths in New South Wales. A trans-Tasman travel bubble could risk cases being transferred over to New Zealand. 

Queensland only has three active cases and has strict interstate border controls in place - but Peters is confident the state will open up to New Zealand to spark up tourism. 

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters. Photo credit: Getty

"The tourism industry in Queensland is screaming out for it. That's why they should let us in. The Queensland tourism industry is screaming out for New Zealanders to be able to come to their part of Australia because that's where the majority of us go."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show the travel bubble is still on the cards but said it's up to Australia to decide if it could be implemented state-by-state. 

"It is fair to say that there are some states in Australia that are in a not too dissimilar position to New Zealand right now... It's Australia's call whether they open up state by state rather than wait for the whole country." 

Peters said we need to look at the current COVID-19 climate as an "opportunity". 

"If 55 percent of the tourists coming to New Zealand are from Australia, and the second-highest tourists to Australia are New Zealanders - and they can't go anywhere else - this market can recover much more quickly than people think," he said. 

"I just want people to get out on the road and give it a chance to work."

National leader Todd Muller said earlier this week the Government needs to provide a timeline on when the travel bubble could be in place.  

He said all businesses are getting from the Government is "silence". 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

"I think they need to fill that silence with a very clear direction for New Zealand as to how we are going to integrate with other countries that aren't as advanced, if you like, in terms of eliminating the virus, as we are."

Ardern told reporters last month there's a chance the bubble could be in place by September.   

She said she and her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison are "very, very keen" to open up the border between the two countries when it's safe to do so. 

As for a Pacific Islands travel bubble, both Ardern and Peters are keen on the idea, but say a cautious approach must be taken. 

"When we get these bubbles going between these countries, it's because we've got serious aviation and maritime security measures, and so must the Pacific Islanders," Peters said. 

"Then also you've got to say, what are your medical facilities like if there's an outbreak? There's a lot of preparation work to be done."