Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has urged state premiers to “adhere to the plan” of reopening borders when the vaccination target has been reached, for the economy and people’s mental health.
In a column on The Australian, the Treasurer said that business leaders, including Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, are calling for the economy to “safely reopen” as targets are in sight.
It comes as the nation’s states are divided, with South Australia committed to the reopening, but Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia remaining hesitant.
In late July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said once 70 per cent of Australian adults have been double-jabbed, ‘Plan B’ of transitioning the nation out of lockdown will begin.
“If states and territories do not adhere to the plan agreed at national cabinet, the cost in terms of lives and livelihoods will be unacceptably and unnecessarily high,” said Frydenberg.
He said the message of reopening when vaccination rates are reached “needs to be repeated” as it holds governments to account.
“This is why it is so vital that all jurisdictions demonstrate their commitment to reopening at 70 to 80 per cent,” he added.
As of 27 August, 27.2 per cent of the population have been fully vaccinated, with 46.5 per cent having received one jab.
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said last week he is committed to supporting the reopening of Australia when the targets are reached in the coming months.
“Right since day one in SA, we’ve listened to that expert advice. The science, that evidence from the experts, has informed that national cabinet position,” Premier Marshall said.
But, Queensland and WA’s premiers have both maintained their rights to enforce hard border closures despite the increase of jabs.
“This is a time for cool heads. We don’t need rash decision-making on the basis of what is occurring in NSW. There is an Australia outside of NSW,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said last week.
Queensland chief health officer Jeanette Young said last Wednesday the state was on track to reach the jab target, but reopening was still negotiable.
“There are an awful lot of ‘ifs’ in that the most important ‘if’ is that people need to come forward and get vaccinated,” she said.
Victoria is set to adhere to the target but is concerned about its vaccination supply according to MP Martin Foley.
“The sooner the commonwealth opens its cheque book and starts providing us more vaccinations, the sooner we can get there,” he said on Monday.
Frydenberg urged state leaders to look at the “protection offered by vaccines”, referring to the outbreak last year in Victoria – while there were far lower cases, there were far higher deaths.
“Tragically, Victoria saw more than 800 deaths last year. NSW has seen over 80 lives lost,” he said.
“The reduction in deaths as a proportion of the number of cases has been almost 90 per cent.”
He added as rates rise and time goes on, Australia needs to get realistic about living with the virus.
Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said inoculations are the “the only way back to normal freedom of movement” and the “only solution to the situation Australia currently finds itself in”.
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