Ski at home because no one leaves the ‘Koala Curtain’..

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, a ‘Koala Curtain’ has descended across Australia.

Yes, our government decided to ban us from leaving our own country. Just like the good old Iron Curtain days, when communist dictators locked their citizens inside and forced them to drive Trabis, not Audis.

In another COVID-19 induced shock to the system, to go with the end of Federation (we have all become citizens of our states and territories apparently these past few months), since the end of March Australians have been banned from leaving Australia.

Powder skiing at Tenjindeira, Gunma
Will “necessary for my mental health” cut it with Border Force as an excuse to escape the ‘Koala Curtain’? © Alister Buckingham

Controlling entry is obviously a valid strategy. But if people want to leave the country, why stop them?

Surely it’s the return that’s the problem. Paying your own compulsory quarantine and extorsionate airfares would seem to be disincentive enough on that front. Unless they really have to, for family or other reasons, people won’t be traveling anyway.

But amid the general rising panic, lockdowns, flight bans and other measures coming rapidly at the start of all this, the Prime Minister’s announcement back on March 24th went largely unremarked. There was just too much else happening. Skiers were still getting back from trips, not thinking of their next one. For lots of people with businesses and jobs in the overseas ski industry just getting home was a stretch.

This was the PM’s statement at the time:

“Leaders noted that the Commonwealth Government will implement a ‘do not travel’ ban on Australians travelling overseas under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

This will help avoid travellers returning to Australia with coronavirus and the risks of spreading coronavirus to other countries.”

The Biosecurity Act 2015.

Never heard of it? Us neither.

If you have, you probably thought it applied to pests and similar stuff. Or those naughty people with suitcases full of fresh seafood, salami etc, the old “my mother packed it for me” excuse. The Biosecurity Act passed with bipartisan support at the time.

Reading its provisions now, I did wonder why arriving cruise ships were allowed to disgorge their passengers in the middle of the pandemic (a few days before the ban on leaving Australia came into force):

The department has inspection and reporting requirements to ensure that all maritime vessels arriving in Australia comply with international health regulations and that any biosecurity risk is adequately managed. The biosecurity risk of each vessel entering Australian seas is assessed and necessary action is taken to ensure exotic pests and diseases are not introduced.

Assessment and necessary action is taken. Or not taken in the Ruby Princess case.

Fast forward to September and foreign students will start arriving again, encouraged by the same government that won’t let citizens leave. Go figure.

It’s great for the students, the universities collecting the fees and the general economy no doubt.

But getting back to the Iron Curtain analogy, there was no shortage of study places available back in the day for western students to go into those communist paradises to study. But virtually no traffic the other way, except for children of the ruling elite who were allowed to travel. We are living in strange times indeed.

So what has this little lesson in freedom to do with skiing you ask?

It seems a lot of people promoting overseas snow holidays didn’t/haven’t got the message yet.

Social feeds are full of ads and “deals” for skiing overseas next northern winter. Well hello, as of now Aussies still can’t leave the country, never mind find a flight if they could.

So it is ridiculous to be advertising trips, accommodation and associated options as if they are available, when obviously they aren’t. Yes, sure, we talk about skiing overseas a lot here and supply plenty of info and ideas for where to go when you can go – Japan, North America, Austria, Switzerland, South America and of course the neighbours over the ditch in NZ.

And we will continue to do so – this nightmare can’t last forever, thought it’s increasingly likely it will continue well into 2021 so the prospects of any sort of normality for next northern winter are fading.

The bottom line is there is no skiing and boarding overseas until:

  • A/ We can leave the country
  • B/ We can definitely get into where we intend to go
  • C/ There are flights to do that
  • D/ you can get back in without quarantine

These are the restrictions on leaving Australia for citizens:

If you are an Australian citizen or a permanent resident you cannot leave Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions unless you have an exemption. You can apply online but you must meet at least one of the following:

  • your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid 
  • your travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business (including export and import industries)
  • you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
  • you are travelling on urgent and unavoidable personal business
  • you are travelling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds 
  • your travel is in the national interest.

However essential you think that o/s pow mission is, it’s unlikely the friendly folk at Border Security will share your opinion.

So don’t waste what’s left of the season here. It’s about to get epic. Those who can access it should get on it. It actually has not been too bad most of the time in NSW for the past several weeks. From Wednesday this week it will be seriously better..

Riding powder early August at Thredbo
Peter Wunder earlier in August at Thredbo © Pete’s mate