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Treasurer urges premiers to ‘adhere’ to the reopening plan once jab targets hit

written by Isabella Richards | August 30, 2021
Virgin and Qantas 737s sit side-by-side, as shot by Victor Pody

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.

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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.

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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.

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia have led the way with mandating vaccinations for employees, expecting international borders will re-open by mid-December.

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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2 Comments

  • chris

    says:

    Not a case of opening a cheque book Mr. Foley! The ALP at both state and federal level continues to play cheap political games. Being disingenuous and pursuing phoney identity politics cost the federal ALP the election on 18th May 2019. Labor are too clueless to have worked this out. They are still doing it!

  • Greg

    says:

    WA simply can’t adhere. It needs to lockout the virus as long as possible. It’s health system is already on the verge of collapse after 4 years of failing to address systemic problems, underfunding and mis-spending. While in opposition 4 years ago, current WA Health Minister Roger Cook described ambulance ramping at 1,050 hrs/month as a “crisis: it’s now at 6,000. Half of the states elective surgeries will be postponed from tomorrow. There’s a staffing crisis due to closed borders. Mental health is a mess, with people presenting at ED’s because community & primary care is underfunded (it could be funded from savings achieved by diverting people into community & primary care before they get so bad that they’re admitted to ED’s). The $1.9 billion committed in the budget is half of what’s needed to get hospital beds up to the national average. And they don’t even have any COVID-19 community spread. When, not if they do, WA hospital system will probably collapse. Only then will the WA people realise their emperor wears no clothes.

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