Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews attacked the federal government at the weekend after New Zealanders entered his state via NSW – but it’s now emerged Victoria’s official website specifically permits it.
On Friday, the one-way ‘travel bubble’ between the two countries launched, allowing Kiwis to fly to NSW, the NT and ACT without quarantine. However, there has been confusion as to whether those arriving are then permitted to take domestic flights onwards to states not part of the agreement.
“We were asked, ‘Do you want to be in the bubble?’ and we said no,” said Premier Andrews on Sunday after it was reported 55 New Zealanders entered the state. “This is gold standard, apparently, according to the federal government. I’ve got no power to stop them coming in.
“No one is alleging that the virus is hiding in New Zealand, it’s not. What was concerning is that a bunch of people turned up and we didn’t know about it.”
It came after Premier Andrews wrote a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday calling on arrivals from across the Tasman to be prohibited from entering the state.
“Work with us and let’s make sure Victoria is not part of a bubble that we never agreed to be in,” he said on Sunday. “Now, if that isn’t possible, let’s talk about what else can happen. I don’t want to shut our border.”
However, the official advice from Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services, still live on Monday morning, reads, “A trans-Tasman travel bubble is currently in place between New Zealand and parts of Australia. This allows travellers from New Zealand to arrive in New South Wales and the Northern Territory without having to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
“Currently the Victorian borders are open. If you are travelling from New Zealand and have passed all relevant immigration and biosecurity requirements as established by the federal government, New South Wales government and Northern Territory government, then you are able to travel to Victoria. You do not need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in Victoria.”
It’s not clear whether that advice is due to confusion, or because Victoria doesn’t have the power to stop Kiwis entering. Later on Monday, Andrews argued the words regarding New Zealand arrivals were added on Sunday night, however, the same page has previously stated Victoria’s borders to other states are actually open.
Immigration Minister Alan Tudge jumped on the apparent misunderstanding and told 2GB radio on Monday, “Their own website expressly says this, and this is why I’m perplexed as to why Daniel Andrews launched such an aggressive attack on us over the weekend.
“We don’t want to argue with him over these matters because they were discussed at officials’ levels, they were agreed by the Victorian government according to their own internal emails.
“He’s raised this issue and said very publicly that we’re apparently at fault, when it seems very clear they knew about it, consented to it and their website shows people can do exactly what they did.”
The first flights under the one-way trans-Tasman bubble landed in Sydney on Friday, with passengers now not having to undertake any form of quarantine.
The Air New Zealand 787-9, ZK-NZR msn 65088, departed Auckland at 11:06am as flight NZ103 and touched down in Sydney at 11:59am after a two-hour 53 minute journey.
Passengers arriving will have to complete a health declaration, though are otherwise able to continue their journey unrestricted. Crucially, however, passengers returning to New Zealand will have to quarantine in a government facility.
Initially, Qantas planned to operate six Sydney-Auckland return flights a week, plus four Sydney-Christchurch-Sydney flights, however, this has been scaled back to scrap the latter route and operate just two flights per week due to poor demand.
Earlier this week, Australian Aviation reported that Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has confirmed plans are developing to make trans-Tasman travel reciprocal by the end of the year.
It came at the same time as he hinted that travel to higher-risk destinations such as Europe and the US would be off the cards next year if there wasn’t a breakthrough on a vaccine.