NSW pres­sure to re­open state borders trig­gers ac­cu­sa­tions of bul­ly­ing from WA and Queens­land pre­miers

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Elias Vison­tay

The New South Wales premier, Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian, re­mains in a spar­ring con­test with her Queens­land and West­ern Aus­tralian coun­ter­parts, as pres­sure to re­open state borders trig­gers ac­cu­sa­tions of bul­ly­ing be­tween lead­ers and threats of travel re­stric­tions un­til Septem­ber.

In a week without a na­tional cab­i­net meet­ing, the WA premier, Mark Mc­Gowan, and Queens­land premier, An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk, have blasted Bere­jik­lian for call­ing on them to lift bans on in­ter­state travel, with the lat­ter say­ing she would not be “lec­tured” by a state that has recorded more Covid-19 cases.

Ear­lier this week, au­thor­i­ties in NSW – which, along with Vic­to­ria and and the ACT, never for­mally shut its borders to the de­gree that other states and ter­ri­to­ries did – an­nounced re­gional travel within the state would be al­lowed from 1 June.

In WA, travel re­stric­tions are in place be­tween sev­eral biose­cu­rity zones within the state to pro­tect re­mote com­mu­ni­ties. In Queens­land, the state’s chief health of­fi­cer, Jean­nette Young, warned the lo­cal tourism in­dus­try on Wed­nes­day to real­is­ti­cally pre­pare for travel to re­turn to nor­mal by Septem­ber.

At the fed­eral level, the tourism min­is­ter, Si­mon Birm­ing­ham, has called for re­stric­tions on travel be­tween states to be eased to aid the eco­nomic re­cov­ery while the deputy chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer, Paul Kelly, has said “from a med­i­cal point of view I can’t see why the borders are still closed”.

He was re­spond­ing to com­ments from Mc­Gowan that lead­ers in WA – which had three ac­tive Covid-19 cases as of Thurs­day – would not take health ad­vice from the state where the Ruby Princess cruise ship was al­lowed to dis­em­bark pas­sen­gers.

“It’s odd, NSW is say­ing don’t catch pub­lic trans­port in Syd­ney ... yet they’re say­ing why can’t NSW peo­ple fly to West­ern Aus­tralia,” Mc­Gowan said.

“We’re not go­ing to give in to that sort of bul­ly­ing by the NSW premier or any­one else. We are go­ing to pro­tect the health and the econ­omy of West­ern Aus­tralia,” he said.

That ac­cu­sa­tion of bul­ly­ing prompted Bere­jik­lian to de­fend her push to re­open travel be­tween states on Thurs­day morn­ing, sug­gest­ing pre­miers who took a firm stance on re­tain­ing bor­der clo­sures were ben­e­fit­ing by ap­pear­ing more pop­u­lar to their ci­ti­zens.

“I just don’t think it’s log­i­cal at this stage to main­tain those bor­der clo­sures for a pro­longed pe­riod of time,” Bere­jik­lian told ABC TV on Thurs­day morn­ing.

“For Aus­tralia to re­ally move for­ward as a na­tion dur­ing this very dif­fi­cult eco­nomic time as well as dif­fi­cult health time, we do need … to al­low peo­ple to move be­tween states, to live, to work, to see fam­ily,” she said, adding that com­mu­ni­ties be­tween north­ern NSW and south-east Queens­land saw the bor­der as “ar­ti­fi­cial”, with a visit to a doc­tor or fam­ily of­ten mean­ing cross­ing state lines.

Bere­jik­lian de­nied that she was bul­ly­ing other states, say­ing: “I think ex­press­ing an opin­ion about the fu­ture eco­nomic health of our na­tion is what I should be al­lowed to do.”

At a daily Queens­land Covid-19 press con­fer­ence shortly af­ter, Palaszczuk ac­cused Bere­jik­lian of un­der­per­form­ing on the health front.

“We’re not go­ing to be lec­tured to by a state that has the high­est num­bers in Aus­tralia,” Palaszczuk said.

“Here in Queens­land, it is best for us that we con­tinue to min­imise move­ment across our do­mes­tic borders … This is not the time for tourists to travel into Queens­land be­cause one case can cause an enor­mous set­back to our plan,” she said.

This prompted the fed­eral home af­fairs min­is­ter and Queens­land MP Peter Dut­ton, dur­ing his reg­u­lar Thurs­day morn­ing slot on 2GB ra­dio, to at­tack Palaszczuk.

“There is just no logic to her posi

tion ... If she had a sound ba­sis then peo­ple could eas­ily agree with her po­si­tion, but it’s clear that she just doesn’t have a log­i­cal ar­gu­ment.”

The One Na­tion leader, Pauline Han­son, later echoed the pro-bor­der re­open­ing po­si­tion, call­ing on Palaszczuk to “let peo­ple get on with their lives”.

Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Im­ages

The pre­miers of Queens­land and West­ern Aus­tralia have blasted NSW premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian for call­ing on them to re­open borders.

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