Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan appear to be feuding over the state’s border restrictions.
Frydenberg hinted that the federal government may stop providing WA with economic support if McGowan doesn’t stick to the plan laid out by the National Cabinet and open up once vaccination rates reach 70 or 80 per cent.
“I know first hand there are a number of West Australian tourism businesses that are struggling. That is why we agreed to a package of economic support in partnership with the McGowan government for the tourism industry in Western Australia because the border closures and lockdowns have hurt them,” Frydenberg said during a Monday morning appearance on Sunrise.
“[Once vaccine levels reach] 70 to 80 per cent, there should be no expectation that the federal economic support that we are providing right now can continue in that way.”
McGowan has previously said WA may stay in lockdown even after vaccine rates hit 80 per cent, citing a low rate of Indigenous vaccination in the state.
“That’s why we agreed at National Cabinet level that we’d be able to put restrictions in within states even if we got to 70 or 80 per cent,” he said.
“That was the national agreement.
“It’s a pity some people don’t remember or don’t read what was agreed.”
Frydenberg said that if WA stays closed it will cost jobs, see businesses close, increase the national debt burden and “see the well-being of Australians suffer”.
“You could have the ridiculous situation where somebody in New South Wales could travel to Canada before they could go to Cairns, or somebody in Victoria could travel to Singapore and Bali before they could go to Perth,” the Treasurer said.
“That is why it is so important that the agreed national plan is adhered to by the states and the territories.”
According to 7 News, McGowan said Frydenberg was “100 per cent wrong”, adding that WA had the strongest economy in the country.
“We are the most free and successful community in Australia today,” he said.
“I mean, they’re just in cloud cuckoo land if they think WA is somehow holding back the national economy.
“We have the strongest retail growth figures in the country by a long way, the strongest industry, the lowest unemployment rate.”
On Monday, McGowan said in a Facebook post that WA may be a few months behind other states when it comes to reopening its borders.
He said that “hundreds” would die and businesses would be massively impacted, shutting down large parts of the state’s economy.
“I don’t want to see people dying in nursing homes or aged care villages or disability centres or hospitals. I don’t want to bring back harsh limits on local businesses,” McGowan said.
“The Commonwealth government should be more concerned about getting the current situation under control, and trying to spare the rest of the country from the fate that NSW is suffering.
“We are not living in caves – we have some of the freest, most open, exciting communities in the world – and we want to keep it that way while we get our population vaccinated.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday that while he understands that WA wants to be cautious, he reiterated his stance that borders do not stop the Delta variant.
“People think that borders protect people from COVID. Well, no, I’m sorry, the Delta variant is stronger than borders, and the best protection is getting vaccinated,” he said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also chimed in, saying the whole country needs to work together so families can reunite for Christmas.
“What 70 per cent looks like in NSW double-dose might be different to WA, but it means we’ll be much freer and the key issue for us is remember we are the largest population, the highest density and the highest diversity,” she said, according to ABC News.
“We need to think of ourselves not just as citizens of a state, but citizens of Australia, and accept that we have friends and relatives, work colleagues that live in different states; that we have Australians wanting to come home. And if not at 80 per cent double-dose, then when?”
In other state border news, the ACT has extended its lockdown for another two weeks after clocking 13 new locally acquired cases on Wednesday, and South Australia will lift restrictions for people travelling from Katherine in the Northern Territory and 11 LGAs in South East Queensland.
Meanwhile, across the ditch, New Zealand has extended Auckland’s lockdown for another two weeks despite a significant drop in cases.
Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was still too soon to tell if the outbreak had peaked.
Featured image source: YouTube/ABC News (Australia)