SUBJECTS: Omicron variant; QLD Border Opening; Economic Growth; International Border Opening for Skilled Migrant Workers & International Students;

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me live now here in the studio is Michelle Rowland. She's the Shadow Communications Minister of course, Michelle, good to see you in person. Now, Josh Frydenberg, he was on the show earlier and he talked about the need - we're eyeing off Queensland here - now that borders are open, they've got to stay open for not just the health of people but also the health of the economy too. Would you support what he's saying?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Premiers have had to make very difficult decisions through these periods and the Queensland Premier has made it clear that they wanted to ensure their state stayed strong, that they kept Queenslanders healthy and they've managed to do that. The big game changer here of course has been the vaccination rates. That's at 80% now, I understand, and is going to hit 90% soon as well. So, it's a credit to Queensland that that's been able to happen. This will be a big boon for Queensland's tourism sector as well, which has really suffered. So, I think all Queenslanders and everyone looking to get into Queensland for the holidays will be very excited about this.

STEFANOVIC: The Treasurer was also talking about assumptions that are baked into economic forecasts. You've got MYEFO that's coming out later on today. On the whole the economy is in pretty good shape, considering what's going on but the assumptions baked in are that there can't be any more border closures. Do you agree with that point? Or do you feel inevitably that there will be as new variants emerge?

ROWLAND: The sense that I get just listening to various state and territory premiers is that they want to stay open. They understand that vaccinations have been the game changer, that Australia has done really well. Just look in the case of Queensland - they've managed to keep the economy strong. The only way to keep it stronger is to enable its enormous sectors of tourism to open up. So I don't think that there would be a state or territory premier that would be openly desiring to go into lockdown. Having come off what's been a really difficult year, people want to start getting back to that sense of normality and being able to move around Australia freely.

STEFANOVIC: Do you feel like there needs to be consistency across the board, state by state, when it comes to isolation now that everyone's gradually opening borders and moving together?

ROWLAND: Again, this would be based on health advice, which I confess I'm not an expert. Once again, that would depend on - I would guess - the levels of vaccination rates in each of the states and territories. 

STEFANOVIC: It's all high now. I mean, WA is almost about two across 80% itself. 

ROWLAND: It is all very high. Just from a purely consumer perspective, you can understand that you want to keep these rules as simple as possible and having come out of a hard lockdown for a couple of months where the rules changed on a regular basis and it was hard to keep up with, I can appreciate that there's a desire for consistency and ease of understanding of those rules. But again, you would have to base that on the best health advice and we need to listen to our Chief Medical Officer on that.

STEFANOVIC: It looks as though the international borders for skilled migrants and international students may well resume. It's the pause that is in place due to end on Wednesday. I was just chatting to Dave Sharma and he believes leaves that'll be it. Do you think that's the wisest move? 

ROWLAND: Well again, that would be a good thing because it was paused, as you said, for two weeks and there's been this long anticipation that this sector would open it up again to international students. Coming from an area that has a lot of international students and a lot of registered training organisations who have essentially had their product taken away from them, the ones that are left are really looking forward to this happening. Again, this depends on the rate of the variant. It is concerning to see that there are some instances where clusters have emerged. But, we're in this risk matrix now. It really is about managing the risk and ensuring that we can still function as an economy, we can still have these international students coming in which have been a really important export for the Australian economy.

STEFANOVIC: It seems as though the threat, yes, it's more transmissible, but not as not as bad as previous variants. So I mean, it feels like the heat has come out of that one.

ROWLAND: One hopes so and I noticed that Australia has been in the forefront of some of that research as well. But again, I think there is no room for complacency. With further variants, as they arise, we need to ensure that we're taking all the best advice we can on boosters and making sure we stay safe.

STEFANOVIC: Michelle Rowland. Good to see you in person. Talk to you soon.