Health Minister Greg Hunt has ratcheted up the pressure on the Queensland government to lift its ban on interstate travellers, linking the opening of its borders to the resumption of flights to New Zealand.
As Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk faces growing criticism from the tourism and travel industries over her decision to keep her state's borders closed until "towards September", Mr Hunt said an Australia-New Zealand travel bubble could be established by October "if not earlier".
But he warned trans-Tasman travel would not resume until interstate travel restrictions had been lifted.
Mr Hunt told an Australia Institute webinar that flights to New Zealand could resume "at about the same time or not long after" state borders were opened.
"You couldn't do it until the state borders are down, and we would want to see that," the minister said.
All states and territories except the ACT, New South Wales and Victoria have border closures or other travel restrictions in place.
"The Queensland premier gave a guideline that was perhaps a little late[r] than anybody had presumed in terms of Queensland," Mr Hunt said.
"We will wait and see if that happens a bit earlier.
"I would imagine that a New Zealand bubble could be in place before the first of October, if not earlier."
But the minister warned that current 14-day quarantine measures for international arrivals would remain in force until there is a vaccine for COVID-19.
"I don't see, [Chief Medical officer] Brendan [Murphy] doesn't see, PM doesn't see, any rapid access to coming through unfettered borders until there is a vaccine," he said.
The health minister also revealed that the government's decision to add telehealth consultations to the Medicare schedule was likely to stand even after the pandemic ends.
Medical groups have been lobbying for the measure for years, and it was introduced in March amid mounting concerns patient access to primary health care.
"There was a risk in late March that the GP workforce could have been overwhelmed," Mr Hunt said.
"Many GP practices were beginning to self-close or were very, very cautious about patients coming."
He said introducing telehealth had been a fundamental step in addressing those concerns and there had now been 10 million consultations conducted.
"I think it will be a permanent change to the landscape," Mr Hunt said.
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