Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken out against the state premiers threatening to keep their borders shut to NSW and Victoria over Christmas, despite the national reopening plan.
The Prime Minister stated he “can’t see any reason” why Australians should be unable to cross state borders over Christmas, once 80 per cent of the country’s adult population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as was outlined by national cabinet’s reopening plan.
It comes as both the Queensland and Western Australia governments have repeatedly stated that they are willing to keep their borders shut to the currently locked-down states of NSW and Victoria, even if vaccination rates across the country hit 80 per cent.
“There comes a time when you’ve got to honour the arrangement you’ve made with the Australian people, and that is when you get to 80 per cent vaccination, it’s very clear that you can start opening up,” the PM Morrison said, speaking from the US on Weekend Sunrise on Sunday.
PM Morrison noted that while the premier’s powers to shut their state’s borders to other Australian states are “not new powers”, he said “there comes a time when you have just got to move on and get on with it”.
“What I’d like [Australians] to have for Christmas is their lives back, and that’s within the gift of governments and that’s a gift I’d like to see us give them,” the Prime Minister added.
The Prime Minister added that other “common sense” instruments, including QR code check-ins at public venues and face masks, will still be implemented as Australians learn to “live with the virus”.
In response to PM Morrison’s criticisms, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said that the PM “should focus on his job” during his diplomatic trip to the US, rather than taking swipes at the premiers back home.
“Diplomacy is his job. International trade is his job. Vaccination should be his job, but we’re doing it. Quarantine should have been his job, but we’re doing it. Keeping COVID out of NSW was his job and he failed at it,” Minister Miles said.
The Deputy Premier also claimed that the national COVID-19 opening plan has never included the reopening of state borders once vaccination rates hit 80 per cent.
“That’s not what the national plan ever said, but it is what the Prime Minister has continued to restate the plan said. I find it pretty incredible,” he said.
“I don’t think Queenslanders want to just give in this close to the end of the pandemic.
“I don’t think Queenslanders will want to let COVID in for Christmas if we don’t have it and New South Wales still does.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk has refused to commit to reopening her states’ borders with NSW and Victoria ahead of Christmas, even if national vaccination rates reach 80 per cent.
Instead, the Queensland premier has said she will look to new modelling from the Doherty Institute to decide when she will lift state border restrictions.
“The Doherty modelling has not been released publicly … but 80 per cent will mean different things to different states,” she said last week.
Meanwhile, WA Premier Mark McGowan has been a little more explicit with his intentions not to re-open to NSW or Victoria until next year at the earliest.
Premier McGowan has instead suggested that he will set the date for a border opening “a couple of months” after WA has reached vaccine targets “between 80 and 90 per cent” of the whole population, as opposed to just adults.
“I’m not going to deliberately allow COVID to come in before such a time that we have very high levels of vaccines,” Premier McGowan said last week.
“I know some people in the eastern states are sort of demanding we do that, I don’t really get that.
“We’ll bring down the border at some point in time with NSW and Victoria, but I’m not going to set an artificial deadline of Christmas.”
It comes as WA increased border restrictions to Victoria, upgrading the state to an “extreme risk” category under its interstate border controls, as the state’s five-day rolling average for new daily cases now exceeds 500.
Under the ‘extreme risk’ category, very few arrivals would be offered exemptions, and those that are will be required to be vaccinated, present a negative COVID-19 PCR test before travel, and then enter into 14-day hotel quarantine.
Additional COVID-19 tests must be taken on day one, five and 12 of quarantine.