Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has suggested Queensland’s rapid closing of its borders to NSW and ACT was driven by politics not medical advice.
He added it was “childish” that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made the decision to introduce new travel restrictions rapidly without first informing her NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian.
The comments came as Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the Prime Minister would raise the issue of state border closures more generally with the national cabinet. He cited the case of a three-year-old girl with cancer from Victoria who has been banned from travelling to SA for treatment.
At the time, Premier Berejiklian claimed she had no forewarning of the move, which led to many racing over the border at short notice to avoid restrictions.
Talking to the Today program on Friday, Minister Dutton said “When you get a Premier like Annastacia Palaszczuk making announcements about border closures when Gladys Berejiklian is doing a press conference and she is caught out, the question is asked of her and she knows nothing about it, she hadn’t been contacted by Queensland you would imagine she would be a bit miffed.
“I think it is childish. There is a growing mood here in Queensland at the moment of people who say, ‘If the doctors are saying close the borders or put in place this regime, fair enough,’ but there is a lot of politics being played in Queensland at the moment.”
That same morning, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud raised the example of a young girl with cancer from Victoria whose treatment has been affected by border closures.
“In far western Victoria there’s a three-and-a-half-year-old girl who’s got cancer. She’s actually wearing a colostomy bag and has lost part of her spine and was getting chemotherapy in Adelaide,” Minister Littleproud told Radio National.
“Now because of the closure, she’s unable to get chemo in Adelaide and has now been pushed away. Her family are going to have to take her hundreds upon hundreds of kilometres away to get treatment.
“This isn’t just about pressures we’re going to have on our food supply and animal welfare, this is a real human toll. We’re just asking our premiers to inject themselves and lead on compassionate human grounds as well.”
Minister Littleproud added that the Prime Minister would escalate this because of the gravity of the situation.
“He’s going to inject himself and ask the premiers in each state to inject themselves together and understand each other’s borders,” he said.
However, earlier this week, Australian Aviation reported how Prime Minister Scott Morrison significantly softened his criticism of state border closures.
On Monday, the PM told reporters it was “for others to judge” whether premiers were doing the right thing but that they had to “explain the decisions”.
The comments marked a major shift from his stance in May, when he said there was “no doubt” closures hurt the economy and should be removed “as soon as possible”. The words reflect fears of a second wave of coronavirus across the country, as well as the ongoing situation in Victoria.
PM Morrison said, “If there are issues to be sorted out between states and territories when it comes to borders, well, they need to sort them out. And if they need our assistance to do that, I assure you they will ask them for us.
“It’s for others to judge whether they’re doing that sufficiently or not. I’m not the arbiter of that.”