Prime Minister Scott Morrison has significantly softened his criticism of state border closures after a string of new restrictions came into force during the past fortnight.
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 mark 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.
Speaking in Canberra today, 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.”
When asked his views on recent comments by WA Premier Mark McGowan that his border may be closed until the middle of next year, the PM said he had “no quarrel with Mr McGowan on these matters”.
“I mean, we think any of these border arrangements, as I’ve written to him, should be done collaboratively,” the PM said.
“We should work together on these things. We should continue to assess what the medical situation is and make very transparent decisions about those matters and I think that aids its constitutionality. And we’re working with the McGowan government to that end.
“But I’ve been very careful not to get too far ahead on what might happen in December or March.”
Speaking more generally, he said he hoped border restrictions could be lifted by Christmas but that this was “unlikely” that we could move back to a “restriction-free society”.
In the last week, Queensland shifted to effectively shut its border with NSW and the ACT, despite the latter having no active COVID-19 cases.
“We’ve seen that Victoria is not getting better and we’re not going to wait for NSW to get worse,” said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. “We cannot risk a second wave, we have to act decisively.”
The decision means that, from 1am on Saturday, 8 August, only residents from these areas will be allowed to return to Queensland, and those that do will have to quarantine at a government facility for 14 days.