Australia’s national cabinet on Friday was unable to agree on a united framework to regulate state border restrictions – though SA appears to have relented and will now allow Victorians to cross to access hospitals.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted the issue was “difficult to work through as a national cabinet”.
He then revealed state leaders had agreed to work towards defining what constitutes a COVID-19 hotspot, but hadn’t reached a deal to determine how that would affect borders.
“What I can assure you after today’s meeting is that the national cabinet continues to focus on where it can agree,” PM Morrison said.
“Where there are issues where it can’t reach agreement, well, we move on, and keep dealing with the things we need to deal with and where we can reach agreement.”
Separately, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, speaking after the same gathering, suggested progress was being made on a deal with SA to allow residents to cross for medical purposes.
“We’ve just got to try and make it as workable as we can,” said Premier Andrews. “And the good thing is that there is real goodwill and a genuine interest in not undermining the public health imperative to not see the virus spread, but to be as sensible as we possibly can be.”
He added that he’s also been in discussion with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian about implementing some “common-sense changes” to northern border restrictions.
State border closures once again became a topic of national conversation this week after Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud raised the example of a young girl with cancer from Victoria whose treatment has been affected by the restrictions.
“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.”
Then, days later, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce accused Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of closing her borders purely for political gain.
Joyce said Queensland’s closure to NSW, Victoria and the ACT would cause a lot of small companies “to go out of business”. He added that states had no excuse not to open to areas with few coronavirus cases, and urged the government to create a national framework where states only closed after a certain number of cases were recorded.
“There are no rules around how borders are going to close and open,” he said. “Nobody has an issue with the international border has been closed. That’s protected Australia.
“Nobody’s had an issue with the borders to Victoria being closed, but it’s very clear that we don’t have clear guidelines for when the borders will open or when they will close.
“Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania – we’ve got closure there still with very low cases or no cases. And it’s been like that for a while and we don’t have any determination for when the borders will open.”